Monday, April 20, 2015

Austen Illustrations

One of my favorite nerdy Janeite things to do is to find illustrations of Jane Austen's novels, particularly ones from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. There is something so intriguing about seeing how someone else many years ago viewed a particular scene or character, yet we both read the same words on the page.

I particularly love the illustrations by C.E. Brock and H.M. Brock, which were done during the 1890s and early 1900s. They were brothers who created most of the classic and beautiful illustrations. Seriously, look at the picture above. The colors and drawings are exquisite. If you want to learn more about the pair, check out this site. Hugh Thomson is another artist who did classic Jane Austen illustrations at the time as well.

This one just cracks me up. C.E. Brock totally captured Mr. Collins and his horrific proposal in this drawing. He's so tall, awkward, and pompous. Elizabeth is slanted away from him and desperately doing anything rather than look at him.

This is another beautiful illustration of Emma and Mr. Knightley when they finally come to terms with their feelings for each other. I love the portrayal of Mr. Knightley, but I can't help but feel that Emma would look less timid. She is Emma Woodhouse after all.

Oh, Catherine Morland. The heroine of Northanger Abbey looks totally caught up in whatever gothic romance she is currently reading. I wonder if it is The Mysteries of Udolpho, or The Monk?

This is a drawing by Elizabeth Bishop of Bingley's proposal to Jane in Pride and Prejudice. I love this. It's simple, yet very intense. You can see the feelings that the two have for each other. Maybe it makes us look again at the relationship that always gets overshadowed by Elizabeth and Darcy.

This C.E. Brock drawing depicts Edward and Elinor in Sense and Sensibility. You can see the comfortable affection that they have for each other. I also love the cat just sitting there observing them. Some things never change.

This is a woodcarving by Joan Hassall depicting Edmund comforting young and homesick Fanny in Mansfield Park. It's stark and beautiful, and the emotion pours out of the image.

*Sigh.* Captain Wentworth leaves his letter out for Anne to read in Persuasion. This drawing shows that each knows the significance of the letter.

I'm going to wrap up this post with a more modern portrayal of Elizabeth and Darcy, but one that perfectly captures their attitudes towards each other at the beginning of the novel. It makes me smile.

Had any of you seen any of the older illustrations? What did you think of them? Where they similar to what you had in your head? How important are illustrations to a book in your opinion?

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Comic Relief

Probably my favorite movie quote ever.
What is a Jane Austen novel without the secondary characters who say the most outrageous things and keep us laughing constantly?

I have many favorite secondary characters in Jane Austen; in my opinion, they are often the ones who steal the show with their odd ways and awkward situations.

Two men in particular have a special place in my heart for their nonsensical ways.

The first is dear Mr. Woodhouse, Emma's father in Emma. He is such a kind and caring soul; he only wants what is best for his two beloved girls. However, that does mean that he goes over the top in trying to protect them from the world. He is also a hypochondriac and very irrational about health in general.

My favorite Mr. Woodhouse quotes:
"His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself. What was unwholesome to him, he regarded as unfit for any body; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to prevent any body's eating it. He had been at the pains of consulting Mr. Perry, the apothecary, on the subject. Mr. Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse's life; and, upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge, (though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination,) that wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many -- perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the new-married pair; but still the cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone."
"You must wrap up warm, Emma, in case some of the young dancers do something remarkably reprehensible, like opening a window." 

Yes, I know that quote is from the movie, but I think it perfectly wraps up his character in one quote. It couldn't be more fitting for Mr. Woodhouse.

Next we have Mr. Collins, of Pride and Prejudice fame.
Oh Mr. Collins. I don't enjoy him as a person, but he is so irrational and ridiculous that I can't help loving him for all of the stupid things he does and says. It's a little bit like watching a car wreck. He's just so terribly awkward and stuck on himself, which is a lethal combination. 
Poor, silly, stupid Charlotte Lucas. I'll always feel for her. But then again, she did do it to herself. She went in with her eyes open. 

Here is my compilation of the best Collins quotes:
"Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society."
“Almost as soon as I entered the house, I singled you (Elizabeth) out as the companion of my future life.”
"It is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.''
"They (compliments) arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.''

And here are some Mr. Collins pictures that I found on the internet while writing this post. You're welcome, gentle readers.

Are there any other comic secondary characters who I should add to this list? Who are your favorites? What characteristics make up an effective and funny secondary character? 

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Pride and Prejudice Adaptation Showdown

Top: 1995 miniseries, bottom: 2005 movie
Picking a favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation is often a very divisive issue for Janeites. The only thing worse is picking a favorite Darcy portrayal. Oh the horror! 

Now there are many more Pride and Prejudice adaptations, such as the 1940 and 1980 versions, but the two that I am the most familiar with are the 1995 Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle BBC miniseries, and the 2005 Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen movie, so we will be sticking with those two for simplicity's sake. 
Darcy's wet shirt scene
In one corner, we have the 1995 BBC miniseries, most famous for Colin Firth's wet shirt scene (above), Jennifer Ehle's eyebrows and smirk, and the most eccentric Mrs. Bennet ever portrayed.

I LOVE this miniseries. This is about as close as you will get to the book in an adaptation, granted, it is almost 6 hours long. However, it is a lovely way to spend a weekend afternoon. The acting is fantastic, and I love the character portrayals in this series. 
The hysterical Mrs. Bennet: genius character portrayal
One of the strengths of this miniseries is that it not only shows Elizabeth's side of the story, but Darcy's as well, therefore we get to see him dealing with his feelings for Elizabeth, writing the letter, and being the "avenging angel" for Lydia. It's so well done!
Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Lizzie
Probably what I love best about this movie is the delivery of some of Austen's best comic lines. This version makes me laugh out loud more than any of the others. Mr. Bennet is a sarcastic genius, Mrs. Bennet is a hysterical mess and Darcy and Elizabeth's potshots at each other round out the comedy.  
Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley as Darcy and Lizzie
In the other corner, we have the artistic, gritty masterpiece of the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

What I love about this movie: 
1. The music. I can't think of a movie that has a better soundtrack than this one.
The Bennet women
2. How realistic it is. The Bennet's house is messy and dirty, and there are girls running around yelling and squealing. It feels natural. It feels like you are sitting in a chair observing a normal family of seven, with six of them being women.
3. Macfadyen's portrayal of Darcy. We see a shy and vulnerable awkwardness that many other actors haven't used for the Darcy character. He is fantastic. 
4. The cinematography. Seriously. I dare you to go find a movie that has better visuals than this one. 

With this movie being under two hours long, they obviously had to cut much of the plot in order to fit it into the two hour window. They also did take creative license with several scenes, including both proposals, but I think they were so well done that it doesn't matter. 

Final Score: It's a tie. 

(Yes I get to do that. It's MY blog.)

I can't pick one over the other, it would be like picking a favorite child, and comparing the two would be like comparing apples and oranges. They each look at the book from different perspectives, neither of which is wrong. That is the beauty of literature. There is no right answer. 

Have you watched one or both of these adaptations? What is your opinion? Do you have a particular favorite? Is there a recipe for a "perfect" movie adaptation for any book?