Category Archives: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet

Its PRIDE and PREJUDICE DAY!!!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE SILO COLLAGE

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book by my favorite author, upon turning 200 years old, will be written about A LOT in this blog. Seriously I’m thinking about baking a birthday cake today. I’m just that excited.  [YES, I get this excited about Jane Austen, I realize its not everyone’s cuppa, but bear with me. It will be over soon and tomorrow I’ll be back to proper Thought of the Day bioBLOGS. Promise.]

So, as you may have noticed, for the past week I’ve been giving you my take on the major players in Pride and Prejudice. Today I thought we’d take a look at the different adaptations over the years.

The Originals

First the source… the Austenian Holy Grail if you will, the first editions. I was lucky enough to attend a Jane Austen Society of North America meeting that started at the Goucher College Special Collection Library. Their Jane Austen collection is the largest in North America and it houses several first editions and first illustrated editions.

Opening page of a 200 year old first edition Pride and Prejudice.

Opening page of a 200 year old first edition Pride and Prejudice.

These beautifully letter pressed editions came in three volumes and are handsomely bound and typeset. The type size, letter and line spacing, weight and size of the books were perfectly designed for long afternoons when reading was a prime source of entertainment. One look at these beauties and you will never want to read another trade paper back again.

Goucher also has first illustrated editions and the illustrated editions that followed. It is fascinating to see how the look of the characters changed through the times.

An early illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice from the Goucher Library.

An early illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice from the Goucher Library.

The Goucher Library is hosting a special 200th Anniversary exhibit from January 28, 2013 through July 26, 2013 Click Here for more information on Exhibit.   For more information of the Jane Austen Collection at Goucher you can Click Here. And if you are patient you can read all about the Goucher Austen Collection in an article I’ve written for ARRIVE magazine in the March edition!

The Adaptions

Here's my first Austen bookshelf.

Here’s my first Austen bookshelf.

From the original we move to adaptations. What happened BEFORE Mr. Bingley moved to Neitherfield? What happened AFTER Darcy and Lizzie got married? There are hundreds of these books out there and they vary in genre and quality. As an Austen fan I get one or two spin-off books every holiday and birthday. I recommend Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and Darcy & Elizabeth  and the trio of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman books for those of you yearning to know what MIGHT happen next.

Here's my second Austen bookshelf

Here’s my second Austen bookshelf.

I’m all for anything that brings new reader to Austen. So I enjoyed the Marvel Comics version of Pride and Prejudice.

Cover of "Pride and Prejudice (Graphic No...

Cover of Pride and Prejudice (Graphic Novel)

I like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies too — I found myself reading along, enjoying the original Austen prose and then BAM Zombies. It was fun.

Oh, here are some more books that didn't fit on those other shelves.

Oh, here are some more books that didn’t fit on those other shelves.

I liked Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and its companion Rude Awakenings for their Alice through the looking glass approach to P&P. And I’ll give a thumbs up the more romance-y Definitely Not Mr. Darcy too.

Others are either on the “To Read” pile or have been read so long ago that I don’t remember them well enough that I can’t give you n review. That’s the problem with a lot of these book adaptations… they don’t stick with you like the original.

The Multimedia

On to film. If you were to gather a table full of Jane Austen fans and ask them which is their favorite film version of Pride and Prejudice you’d probably get a half-dozen answers.

Prideundprejudice

In 1940 Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier starred in a “Hollywoodized” version of the novel. I liked the lead’s chemistry and think they did a good job portraying Elizabeth and Darcy. But the movie takes huge liberties with the novel — from the hoop skirts, to cutting out characters and scenes, to adding new scene (archery any one?),  to rewriting the reason Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn.

PrideAndPrejudiceBBCElizabeth Garvey and David Rintoul took on the famous Lizzie and Darcy in the BBC 1980 series. It is my friend and fellow JASNA:MD member Joyce Loney’s favorite of the movies.  She’s a big fan of Garvey’s Elizabeth. And, she writes:

David Rintoul’s Darcy is stiff (okay, some people have called him a stick), but he cracks during the Pemberley visit and he finally relaxes during the proposal scene.  Amy Patterson has a great article (Choose Your Darcy) in the current issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World, and she says that David Rintoul “gets closer than any other to capturing the essence of this wonderful, complicated, shy, angry and passionate hero.”

But Loney’s favorite Darcy, and mine, is Colin Firth. Firth played opposite the beautiful Jennifer Ehle in the A&E mini series in 1995. Ehle is my favorite Lizzie and Alison Steadman and Benjamin Whitrow are far and away my favorite Mr. and Mrs. Bennets.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

At six hours the A&E version fits in almost all the book. And I believe it is the truest film adaptation out there. I could  (and do) watch it again and again. It is a delight (with or with out the wet shirt.)

330px-Bride-and-prejudice

Gurinda Chadha brought a distinctly Bollywood approach to her Bride & Prejudice version in 2004. The movie, complete with colorful blockbuster musical numbers, spans three continents and stars Aishwarya Rai as Lalita (Lizzie), Martin Henderson as Darcy, Namrata Shirodkar as Jaya (Jane) and Naveen Andrews as Balraj (Bingley). Obviously there are a lot of changes from the original novel, but it is fun and bright and they did a great job conveying the heart of the  story.

Prideandprejudiceposter

2005 brought us Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen in Joe Wright’s take on the Novel. Like the Greer Garson version this one leaves out characters and compresses the novel — I guess it has to in order to fit into the 129 minute running time. Personally I had a lot of hope for this version because I love a lot of the actors in it, but, sorry it just falls flat. Tons of style but not so much substance… and when you start with Pride and Prejudice there’s just not excuse for that. There are moments in the movie that are terrific — I thought Macfayden and Knightly were wonderful in the “taciturn” dance and the proposal scene (though why it was in a down pour I don’t understand.) And I give this version the best sound track award. I loved the music. I also really liked Simon Woods as Bingley.

The last adaptation I’m going to cover is also the most current. In fact it is still going on, the brilliant Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The LBD have completely reimagined the story as a video blog circa 2013 LA. Click HERE to go to the home page. From there you can follow the story from the top, explore twitter and tumblr accounts for both the characters and the actors (as well as the producers and director.)

The Wrap Up

I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on Pride and Prejudice. I thank those of you who played along and commented here and on Google and Facebook. As always, please drop me a line an let me know what you are thinking.


Pride and Prejudice Characters: Lizzie and Darcy

LIZZIE AND DARCY

Is there anything more delightful than a well written story of personal growth and discovery? Pride and Prejudice, Austen‘s “own darling child,” is a story of first mis-impressions that eventually resolve into true understanding, appreciation and love. The journey to that self discovery is the juiciest part of the novel. And that means that both Darcy and Lizzie must be willing to change the way they look at the world and at each other.

Jennifer Ehle is beautiful as Elizabeth  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Jennifer Ehle is beautiful as Elizabeth in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Elizabeth Bennet is a pretty, charming, intelligent, self-assured 20-year-old. She is the second eldest daughter of the Bennet family. She takes second place to sister Jane in beauty as well, but she bares it well. She has a lively, playful disposition and a good-natured impertinence that is the delight of her father and the bane of her mother.

Cropped screenshot of Greer Garson from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Greer Garson from the trailer for the film Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lizzie prides herself on being a good judge of character. But when it comes to Darcy and Wickham that is hardly the case.

Keira Knightly as Lizzie in the 2005 Movie

Keira Knightly as Lizzie in the 2005 Movie

Lizzie’s first road block of prejudice is the snub she receives from Darcy at the Assembly Room Ball. At first everyone thinks Darcy is a major catch because he’s tall, handsome and rich. But then

… his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

It was decided that he was “He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world.” The icing on the cake is when he refuses to dance Lizzie, saying“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

Matthew MacFadyen in the 2005 movie.

Matthew MacFadyen in the 2005 movie.

Although outwardly she takes the comment in stride, and even jokes about it with her friends, from that moment on she is prejudiced against him.

Darcy was …haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting…Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared; Darcy was continually giving offence.

(It is a prejudice that Wickham easily manipulates.)

Had Darcy’s opinion of Lizzie not changed it would have been a very different book indeed. But shortly after the snub he begins to appreciate her  “fine eyes,” “light and pleasing figure,” and “easy playfulness.” He tries to shake it, but he falls completely in love with her.

Daniel Vincent Gordh and Ashley Clements tackle the proposal scene in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Daniel Vincent Gordh and Ashley Clements tackle the proposal scene in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

He swallows his pride and familial duty and offers Lizzie the second of her two horrible proposals.  Basically he tells her that he likes her against his will, against his reason, and even against his character.

She refuses him, of course — He’s separated Jane and Bingley and ruined Wickham — how could he think for a moment that she’d accept him.. She calls him on his un-gentleman-like manner then tears into him…

“You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it…From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, … and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

It is a life changing moment for Darcy. He writes her a letter explaining his position on the Jane / Bingley situation and on his dealings in the Wickham narrative and then he leaves Kent. But he’s also forced to face the fact that he is a snob.

Upon reading the letter Lizzie recognizes that prejudice has colored her emotions to Mr. Darcy. She begins to question her assumption of Wickham’s innocence and his guilt.

Colin Firth, the ultimate Darcy, starred  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Colin Firth, the ultimate Darcy, starred in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

At Pemberly she’s presented by a completely different Darcy. Not only does the housekeeper, Reynolds, praise her master, but Darcy actually seems to have transformed. He is kind and welcoming even to her relatives the Gardiners, who he previously thought himself above.

He completely saves the day with the Lydia / Wickham elopement, and he does it all for Lizzie.

By the time Bingley and Jane reunite both Lizzie and Darcy have come 360 in their feelings toward one another. What was once intolerable is now precious. And all was happily ended.

Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoulin in the 1980 BBC series [This one's for Joyce]

Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoulin in the 1980 BBC series [This one’s for Joyce]


Pride and Prejudice characters: Charlotte and Mr. Collins

Charlotte & Collins

For a woman who came from a family of clergymen — her father, two brothers and four cousins wore a collar — Jane Austen certainly enjoys poking fun at them in her novels. And Pride and Prejudice’s  Mr. Collins is her most ridiculous clerical caricature. How on earth does sensible Charlotte wind up with such a buffoon?

A clergyman was a professional, just like a lawyer or doctor. He made his living in the pulpit, not at the bar or in the examining room, but he still needed to be a well educated man. Add to that a vicar needed have a high moral standard, be a good speaker and have compassion for the poor and needy.

David Bamber is Mr. Collins  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

David Bamber is Mr. Collins in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Instead we get conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly, self important Mr. Collins. He is a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, a social climber with a very good opinion of himself and his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

He comes to Meryton to visit the Bennets. As closest male relative he is set to inherit the Longbourn estate on Mr. Bennet’s death. That is something, to his credit, that he feels some guilt over. So he decides to marry one of the five Bennet sisters. Jane is all but engaged to Mr. Bingley so he sets his sites on Lizzie.

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collin in the 2005 movie

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collin in the 2005 movie

Poor Lizzie receives two of the worst proposals  of marriage in literature. The first is from Mr. Collins. He wants to get married because:

  1.  as a clergyman it would set a good example to the parish.
  2.  it will add to his happiness.
  3.  it is “the particular advice “ of Lady Catherine.
  4.  he has a violent affection for Elizabeth

Of course he doesn’t expect a rejected. For one thing he’s SUCH a catch, and for another he’s chosen well. The girls are desperate and he has them in a corner.

He literally can not believe that she declines his offer. Neither can her mother. And for a while Longbourn is long born with strife.

Queue Charlotte.

Charlotte Lucas is plain, pragmatic, good-tempered, funny, sensible, intelligent and unromantic.  She is 27 years old and Lizzie’s intimate friend. She’s such a good friend, in fact, that she comes to the rescue when Lizzie refuses Mr. Collins. She keeps him in good humor by listening to him and, one assumes, diverts him, making sure he’s out of ear shot of the shouting Mrs. Bennet and the giggling Lydia and Kitty.

Lucy Scott in the 1995 series

Lucy Scott in the 1995 series

Lizzie thanks her friend,  but “Charlotte’s kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any conception of; — its object was nothing less than to secure her from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them towards herself.” With a little encouragement on her part Mr. Collins transfers his ‘violent affections’ form one lady to the next and…

”In as short a time as Mr. Collins’s long speeches would allow, every thing was settled between them to the satisfaction of both… he earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men… and Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were gained.”

Lizzie is surprised that Mr. Collins could so quickly change his mind  and settle on another life partner. But she is astonished that Charlotte could accept his proposal.  Charlotte reminds her however that she is…

”not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”

In some ways Charlotte winds up in same situation as Mr. Bennet in the marriage department. Neither of them respect or love their partners. And both do what they can in daily life to avoid interacting with their spouses Mr. Bennet shuts the door to his library, while Charlotte sits in her parlor and encourages Mr. Collins to work with his bees or visit Lady Catherine.

Claudie Blakley in the 2005 movie

Claudie Blakley in the 2005 movie

At the end of the novel Mr. Bennet writes to Mr. Collins informing him that — despite warning to the contrary by both Collins and Lady Catherine — Lizzie and Darcy are soon to marry. Mr. Bennet advises Mr. Collins to  “Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.” If Mr. Collins heeds this wise advice he’d shift his alliance to Darcy who would never put up with the vicar’s toady behavior. That, combined with Charlotte’s even handed temper–which (hopefully) would rub off on Collins–MIGHT make him a more tolerable fool.

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Here’s a clip of the wonderful Julia Cho and Maxwell Glick in a scene from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries…


Pride and Prejudice characters: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet

It is unlikely that either Mr. or Mrs. Bennet would win any parenting awards. Nor are they they a role model of a happy marriage.

Mr. Bennet is the easier to take of the two. Perhaps because Austen herself liked a witty conversationalist, she gives Mr. Bennet plenty of ironic banter. Sure, he’s got a quip for every idiotic thing that comes out of Mrs. Bennet’s mouth, and he puts down his daughters with unsettling regularity, but he’s on our girl Lizzie side of things. And when he does come out with a  snarky remark it isn’t said in a shrill scream. He’s calm — to the point of being detached. And if things get too hectic he just shuts the door to his man cave, er, I mean LIBRARY and lets the others put out the fire.

Benjamin Whitrow played Mr. Bennet in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Benjamin Whitrow played Mr. Bennet in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Mrs. Bennet on the other hand is constantly in emergency mode. She’s over excited about everything… from the arrival of the militia in Meryton to Jane’s budding romance. Her mood swings are so intense that she’s either quite shallow or bipolar. If Mr. Bennet is disengaged from his daughter’s lives (specifically the part of his daughter’s lives that involves them getting a husband) she is hyper involved. And while Mr. Bennet hides in his library, Mrs. Bennet prefers to take center stage. In case of emergency she succumbs to her palpitations and flutterings and retires to her lounge to be waited on hand and foot.

Both of them play favorites while neglecting to educate their daughters and have chosen an economic course that requires the girls to marry well or face lives of genteel poverty which their upbringings have made them entirely unprepared for.” [ Story and History; A guide to Everything Jane Austen ]

Mr. Bennet favor’s Lizzie with her sharp tongue and sense of irony. He has a soft spot for Jane who is so sweet he has a hard time finding anything negative about her. But by the time we get to Mary his patience wears thin. He makes fun of her zealous nature and doesn’t support her earnest attempts to exhibit. He has all but given up on Kitty and Lydia  and calls them the two silliest girls in the country.

Alison Steadman is Mrs. Bennet  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Alison Steadman is Mrs. Bennet in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Mrs. Bennet admires Jane’s beauty and good nature, but she really dotes on Lydia (her twin in temperament and love of all things in a Red Coat.) Her second daughter is a source of anxiety for her– especially when she refuse a perfectly good offer of marriage from Mr. Collins.

Austen describes the couple at the end of the first chapter…

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develope. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

They married young. Mr. Bennet…

captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had, very early in their marriage, put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. … To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement.

The novel is almost as much about economics as it is about love. Longbourn, the Bennet’s family estate is entailed away to the nearest male heir upon the untimely demise of Mr. Bennet.

When first Mr. Bennet had married, economy was held to be perfectly useless; for, of course, they were to have a son. This son was to join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should be of age, and the widow and younger children would by that means be provided for.

But they didn’t have a son, so Mr. Collins is set to inherit the estate.

Donald Southerland in the 2005 Movie

Donald Southerland in the 2005 Movie

Even if they HAD had a son there’s no guarantee that  Junior would have agreed to end the entail. He could have wound up like John Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility and turned his back on his family financially. Given the hands off attitude the Bennets employed with their children’s education Junior could have been as feckless and week minded as Lydia. I doubt that the estate could have survived long in that case.  A son would not have necessarily solved the problem. Better if the Bennets had economized through the years.

English: C. E. Brock illustration for the 1895...

English: C. E. Brock illustration for the 1895 edition of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice (Chapter 13 ): “Why, Jane — you never dropt a word of this; you sly thing! ” Français : C. E. Brock illustration pour l’édition C. E. Brock illustration pour l’édition 1895 du roman de Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice (Chapitre 13) Mrs Bennet est sûre que Bingley vient diner (alors qu’il s’agit de Mr Collins) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Better yet if the girls were better educated. If the girls  were really to be “marriage market” ready they should have had a governess or some one who insisted they learn to drawl (one of Caroline/Darcy’s requirements for a refined lady) read the classics, learn foreign languages, dance and play an instrument.  Only two of them can play an instrument, and they don’t play all that well.

Brenda Blethyn in the 2005 movie

Brenda Blethyn in the 2005 movie

Given the economic uncertainty for the girls Mrs. Bennet should have at least prepared them with a more domestic education. At dinner when Mr. Collins wants to compliment which ever of his fair cousins has prepared the meal, Mrs. Bennet informs him that they keep a cook, “and that her daughters had nothing to do in the kitchen.” But maybe the girls should learn a little about cooking. Not to go into service but to be able to run their own kitchen as Lydia certainly will have to. Lady Catherine brags at finding a  governess position for some young ladies she knows. That’s another profession the girls could be readying for.
But neither parent seems at all interested in pushing them toward preparing for the future beyond winning the husband lottery.

Still, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet add a lot of humor to the novel (even if it is self/co inflicted.) And, given that I’ve been known to be sarcastic and I’m a lot closer to their age then Lizzie or Jane’s age I’ve got a soft spot for them. Perhaps they wont win Parent of the Year, 1813, but the novel just wouldn’t be the same with out them.


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