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#Jane Austen

Um, hello. I just saw Emma (2020), and it was… amazing?? Like, I don’t get why this got mixed reviews. It was funny, charming, beautiful, had a good soundtrack, had a great cast, good directing… Why did I believe anyone when they said it was iffy? There were maybe two weird moments, and it slowed down a bit in the middle, but it was absolutely fantastic overall. I can’t believe they packed that whole book into a 2 hour movie and actually included everything. It might even be my new favorite Emma adaptation!

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Oh, sweet Anonymous Celeste. It was not very very cool, but thank you! It was a Jane Austen Murder Mystery party. And like, I’m wildly proud of it, and I had a blast, but it was very, very lame. I tried to explain how I wrote it in-order, but it ended up being eons more coherent to just break-down how the party progressed:

So I wrote/threw the party for one of my close friends who’d had a hard year, and I just wanted to go All Out for her birthday. It was a surprise party, so when she walked in, we were all wearing thrifted Regency attire and completely in-character. We had the whole Pride and Prejudice ensemble repped, except Mary Bennet, who was a blue mannequin torso that lived in my house with a shawl and a wig and a nametag on. The birthday girl was handed a dress and an invitation, addressed to Elizabeth Bennet, letting her know that her closest friends (and a few odious relatives) had been invited to celebrate her birthday at Pemberley. We had a tea party and there was a fan-making station and a letter writing table, and she just thought that it was a hardcore Austen themed party. 

Then 30 minutes into the festivities, our Lady Catherine “died,” her teacup lined with a mysterious green liquid (poison! Gasp!). Lizzie was handed her real invitation to the murder mystery, which contained one clue and a secret that she was keeping. I’d sent everyone else a similar invitation about two weeks in advance. Each clue/secret provided a motive or cast suspicion on a character, and no one could be sure who knew whose secret. This was Lydia’s invitation (sorry for the bad image quality, it’s like a three-year-old photo of a dirty laptop screen):

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It was really March; but it was April in its mild air, brisk soft wind, and bright sun, occasionally clouded for a minute; and everything looked so beautiful under the influence of such a sky, the effects of the shadows pursuing each other on the ships at Spithead and the island beyond, with the ever-varying hues of the sea, now at high water, dancing in its glee and dashing against the ramparts

Jane Austen - Mansfield Park

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I love reading pride and prejudice, but I always end up reading it too fast. And then I feel like it’s not a long enough enemies-to-lovers slowburn, but really it’s just me inhaling the story as fast as my book-addicted brain can go

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Best cinematography I’ve seen is probably going to be either Sense and Sensibility ‘95 or Pride and Prejudice ‘05 because quite frankly TV Austen adaptations don’t seem to really draw DsoP who give much of a shit about interesting use of lighting or framing.

Best costuming is Persuasion ‘95. Not the prettiest but they cared!

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It’s not really said why they don’t have a governess–and to pay the salary for one person to see to the education of five girls would be relatively cheap for the Bennets to get their daughters educated as a package deal (but oh my god that poor woman would not be paid NEARLY enough for all that work,) so I don’t think it was a case of them being unable to afford one. But for female education, especially, families could really pick and choose what level of investment they wanted to make. Elizabeth admits that they had whatever masters they wanted (presumably for dancing/art/music,) and fancy-work could be picked up from female friends and relations, so it doesn’t seem as though they were entirely neglected by Mr. Bennet’s refusal to have them educated in accomplishments; but more that it was very self-directed by the Bennet daughters, and if none of them asked for a governess or bothered Mrs. Bennet to teach them things (and it feels unlikely she’d have the skills or will to do so in the first place, so I doubt any attempts went very far,) they could just…do whatever. Imagine if a house full of girls these days were home-schooled but allowed to set their own curriculum and nobody ever made them take any kind of standardized test.

Elizabeth has eked out her own education by reading–as has Mary, though with different results in what they do with that reading. Elizabeth’s is more for personal enjoyment and enrichment, and Mary’s is more along the lines of making her reading another ‘accomplishment’ to display in how she dispenses her nuggets of wisdom in a performative way for social cachet. Kitty and Lydia no doubt enjoyed their dancing lessons, and do that very well, but everything else has been neglected. The Bennet girls essentially have very little structure, and it is their parents’ fault for leaving their educations to their own wills (and young girls/teens are not very likely to get strict with themselves, especially to apply themselves to subjects they may not enjoy.)

There are probably families who COULD have reasonably well-rounded educations for their daughters at home and without a governess (Austen herself only briefly attended school before illness forced her to return home, and I’ve never heard that the family employed a governess, so her mother and father saw to all other aspects of her education, and encouraged her to read widely.) But without some adult to provide structure and encourage disciplined application to learning, it’s almost entirely up to chance whether a girl could scratch out a meaningful education for herself.

That being said, governesses and schools are hardly a guarantee that a girl will develop into an educated person–but then it depends on your definition of education. The famous dialogue about what makes an Accomplished Woman in Pride and Prejudice rather reveals a lot–the Bingley sisters were educated at a very fine ladies’ school in London, and while they have accomplishments such as the things Caroline Bingley lists, (and to master several languages and talents such as music and art is no mean feat!) the sisters are still not quite on Elizabeth’s level, where Elizabeth’s more self-directed reading has perhaps enabled her to better develop her own critical thinking skills and to think outside the box.

Then there is Mrs. Goddard’s school in Emma, which is an unpretentious place and a very good sort of school for what it is–but the text admits that it is not turning out any particular geniuses or artistic talents, but fitting its girls up to be reasonably appealing and capable managers of middling genteel households. But for all that, it’s described rather lovingly: “Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a School—not of a seminary, or an establishment, or any thing which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality, upon new principles and new systems—and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity—but a real, honest, old-fashioned Boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard’s school was in high repute—and very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands.”

It reads as the next best thing to solid instruction at home by a capable and motherly sort of woman, so between this and Austen’s own education I think we can tell of her views on female accomplishments–a certain measure of flexibility and freedom is good for children as they grow, as well as a dignified simplicity which is in stark contrast to the sort of school the Bingley sisters attended in order to become the multi-accomplished beasts they are.

Almost every novel has something to say about female education–Mrs. Elton and Lucy Steele, I think, are school-girls in a similar vein to the Bingley sisters, and they have grown up to be two-faced and supercilious creatures. But then we have Mrs. Smith, who was at school with Anne Elliot, and is one of her truest friends from the beginning. In Mansfield Park we see the difference between the Bertram sisters and Fanny, though they all share the same governess. In these contrasts we can tell that the manner of a girl’s education is as much about developing her social persona in many ways as it is about giving her skills to befit a genteel woman, and the differing notions of what Society thinks an accomplished woman ought to be. Some of Austen’s least ‘educated’ characters are also some of the sweetest and kindest, whose seemingly inborn good sense carries them through difficulties; and some of those who have had a high degree of professional investment in their formal educations have turned out to be the meanest and/or most useless of women.

To bring it back to the Bennets and Lady Catherine, it’s almost certain that Lady Catherine is inquiring about their education and whether or not they had a governess in order to be a snob as well as nosy about Mr. Bennet’s income–hiring a private tutor for one’s child was basically the most expensive educational option available–and while Elizabeth is well-aware of the particular defects in how education has proceeded in her own family, she knows that is more due to her own parents’ lack of structure and discipline, rather than something which could have been fixed by the hiring of a governess. Even if they had one, it seems unlikely Mr. or Mrs. Bennet would exert themselves to make Kitty and Lydia mind the woman and apply themselves to scholarly things. (Other novels make it clear that girls ill-disciplined by their own parents can pretty much get away with murder when it comes to disobeying or ignoring their governesses.) Of course Elizabeth isn’t going to give Lady Catherine the ammunition of admitting that her parents dropped the ball, but she goes as far as she can to defend the general practice of at-home education without a governess, because many families did so (Austen’s included) and their daughters turned out just fine with a little genuine effort, thank you very much.

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Thanks for your question! I think it would really depend on the couple, but humans have always been humans, and any affectionate people could easily be cute and intimate with each other in those sorts of ways. The language was very formal, it’s true; but we don’t see the ‘main’ couples of each story after marriage, generally, so the closer elements of being a couple in love are absent, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have occurred.

There’s also the question of appropriate circumstances for when we do see happily married couples like the Crofts in Persuasion–they probably wouldn’t be likely to nuzzle each other in front of people they had just met, but their easy affection is shown in how they behave with each other in other ways.

People in love will always have moments where they are close and silly and sweet with each other, no matter what century it is! :) It might just depend on the moment, and in a novel about 18-19th century genteel courtship, those moments aren’t often shown.

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If it wasn’t about Eliza how come Willoughby is never identifiably in the frame, though? It’s a set-up for the SHOCKING TWIST later that’s like oh it’s him, but at the same time, like…it’s his voice we hear, so it’s an extremely weak ‘surprise’ as it is. I remember the first time I watched it I felt how bizarre it was to have a sex scene ostensibly between two people which focused so single-mindedly on the body of the girl…it was male gaze on steroids.

Also I’m not sure who you mean who else is to blame if not Willoughby, though?

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Jane Austen is really good at showing the power of gossip and half stories. Elizabeth hears Wickham’s story from Wickham and because of her poor opinion of Darcy, she believes ill of Darcy easily. Jane hears the Bingley siblings side of Wickham’s story and believes them because of her fondness for them.

But at this point in the narrative there is no way of knowing the full truth of the matter. I do love seeing the different sides of a story like this.

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