Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

I'm in a bit of a Jane Austeny-sort of mood at the moment. I recently indulged in the BBC's 1995 Pride and Prejudice, and got stuck. Austen and Wodehouse do the same thing to me: I just wish I could talk like that, that as a society we could still get away with it. I'm doing my small part, though. I make a point of being extremely vexed every now and then.

(Incidentally, Colin Firth is supposed to be a little miffed about being eternally associated with Mr Darcy. I don't believe it for a second. You don't sign up for the Bridget Jones franchise, or St. Trinian's, where a dog named Mr Darcy humps your leg and in one scene you emerge all wet and white-shirted out of a pond, without feeling quite okay with being forever thought of as a certain Regency gentleman. I am willing to consider, though, that starring alongside Jennifer Ehle and David Bamber in The King's Speech may have just been a quirk of casting rather than another call-out to P&P.)

I first saw the BBC series (it remains superior to all other adaptations and I won't tolerate any dissent on the matter) probably around 1996 or 1997 in Finland. I didn't know anything about the story beforehand, but 'knew' where it was all heading. Knowing that the girls have to marry well before their father dies, I had an ominous feeling that very soon Mr Bennett would die, and the girls would be cast out of polite society, fall into prostitution and live out their short lives poor, desperate and syphilitic.

Can anyone guess whether I'm an optimist or a pessimist?

Every week I would dread the inevitable, and when Elizabeth receives that letter from Jane I was certain this was it. And then it wasn't. I was very confused. Lydia's shame could of course only be a sign of things to come, but I did think they were leaving the tragic demise of the older Bennett girls a little too late in the series. The last episode must be awfully rushed, I thought. I didn't quite know what to make of it when I was actually faced with a happy ending.

Now, of course, not having the burden of anxiety about the family's fate makes for a very pleasant experience, and I can't help but wonder whether I really, really like Pride and Prejudice because it was such a phenomenally happier story than I expected it to be first time around. Sometimes it's nice to be proven wrong.


  1. I may have been guilty of writing entire letters - Jane Austen style - to my school friends after discovering the joys of Austen (and Colin Firth) courtesy of the BBC. My friends were perfectly charmed, I'm sure, but not a little confused. I also had a cool party trick for a while there of being able to recite the entire first chapter of P&P, verbatim.

    Perhaps I'm an optimist, or perhaps Australian children's television is rather different than the Finnish, but I think I always sort of knew it would have a happy ending. Would have been far more fun to approach it your way, though!

  2. Austeny letters! Oh my.

    I suspect my pessimism over P&P was at least in part due to having seen the American miniseries North&South around the same time. It's about the civil war and some pretty awful things happen to Kirstie Alley.

    I still have your thingamibobs by the way. Would you consent to a date next week sometime so that you can get your dues?