The French Revolutionary Calendar

In the Oxford Austen online class I have just completed, I discovered a number of websites relating to the British Navy that we studied for the units on Mansfield Park and Persuasion.  The Historical Maritime Society has a wealth of information and is worth a look-see – I append here one bit of interesting revolutionary-era history that was new to me, and quite a good chuckle as well, so prepare for a belly-laugh!:

The French Revolutionary Calendar

One of the peculiar manifestations of the French Revolution was the adoption of a totally new calendar, ‘The Calendar of Reason’, which was based on the system used by the Ancient Egyptians. From time to time anyone reading contemporary documents will be aware of this system and a brief explanation is included here.

In the build-up to the Revolution it was not just the aristocratic class that was despised by the new ‘thinkers’ but also the Roman Catholic church with its all-pervading influence on the lives of ordinary people, its feasts and fasts, coupled with its reactionary support of the hated ‘aristos’. Consequently one of the aims of the 1789 Revolution was the rejection of the relatively new Gregorian calendar (promulgated by Pope Gregory) adopted by France in December 1582 (although not in Britain until 1752).

In 1792 the revolutionary Committee of Public Instruction began to investigate the possibilities of this change and formed a subcommittee to do this. It contained Astronomers, Mathematicians and also Poets and Dramatists and finally published the results of its deliberations in September 1793. This was followed by a decree in October bringing in the new calendar.

The start date for this was 22nd September 1792, the date which marked the start of the French Republic, a date which, it was claimed, marked the beginning of equality for all Frenchmen. The calendar consisted of 12 months, each with 30 days. On top of this there were to be 5 ‘jours complémentaires’ (originally called ‘sansculottides’ after the practice of common non-aristocrats of wearing trousers, not breeches) and leap years were to have an extra jour complémentaire. This was based on the Ancient Egyptian calendar, still used by some Eastern Orthodox Christian churches.

The poets among the committee chose the names of the new months and in particular this task fell to Philip François Nazaire Fabre d’Eglantine, whose nomenclature reflected the character of each particular month. These are presented below with an explanation (mine) of the word’s root. Remember when reading these that the calendar began in late September (Gregorian).

  • Vendémiaire Wine-harvesting
  • Brumaire  Foggy 
  • Frimaire  Frosty 
  • Nivose Snowy
  • Pluviôse  Rainy
  • Ventose  Windy
  • Germinal  Plant germination 
  • Floréal  Flowering season
  • Prairial  Meadows
  • Messidor Reaping and harvesting 
  • Thermidor  Heat
  • Fructidor  Fruit harvest 

 Predictably the furiously anti-French literary establishment across the Channel in Britain made fun of this by christening the months, Wheezy, Sneezy, Freezy, Slippy, Drippy, Nippy, Showery, Flowery, Bowery, Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety!!


[text from Historical Maritime Society – click here for more information:  when at the home page, click on “Nelson and his Navy” and follow the various links]

Further Reading:

[Posted by Deb]

Austen! Austen! everywhere ~

As I have been out of the loop the past few months and now trying to catch up, I will post several links of interest that I have been making notes of – some old news, some VERY old, some off topic but interesting none the less, and some worth repeating, but in the words of Jane herself, that since I noted these, three months have passed,  so I “entreat you to bear in mind ….  that during that period,  places, manners, books and opinions have undergone considerable changes.” [Advertisement by the Authoress to Northanger Abbey].


Here is a link to the Bodleian Library’s Centre for the Study of the Book project of conserving  Jane Austen’s Volume the First, her Juvenilia compilation that includes Henry & Eliza, The Adventures of Mr Harley, and The beautifull Cassandra. “Austen wrote in a ready-made bound blank-book and completed the transcript when she was seventeen. The manuscript was bought for the Bodleian Library through the Friends of the Bodleian in 1933 and was first published in an edition by R. W. Chapman (Oxford, 1933).”  [from the Bodleian website]

see the Bodleian Library Centre for the Study of the Book for more information and photographs.

[Volume the First, before conservation, from Bodleian website]


A Richard Armitage alert! [2 items of literary interest]

                                                                      * Naxos Audiobooks will be releasing Georgette Heyer’s Venetia with the velvet sounds of Richard Armitage – alas! it is, like his previous outing on Sylvester, abridged, but certainly worth the listening – then buy the book and fill in the blanks!

Release date in April, so watch for details – you can order the cd or download directly.




Radio Productions: “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson
Adapted in four parts for the Radio 4 Classic Serial by Hattie Naylor.
14th, 21st, 28th March and 4th April 2010 at 3pm – Radio 4.
And repeated following Saturday at 9pm.

* Robert Lovelace is played by Richard Armitage
* Clarissa Harlowe is played by Zoe Waites
* The company: Alison Steadman, Deborah Findlay, Miriam Margolyes, Oliver Milburn, John Rowe, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adrian Scarborough, Stephen Critchlow, Cathy Sara, Sophie Thompson, Ellie Beaven, Lisa Hammond and Linda Broughton.

“Clarissa” is directed by award-winning classic serial director Marilyn Imrie and is a Catherine Bailey production for BBC Radio 4.  Click here for more information; click here for the podcast of the first two shows.


Teaching Pride & Prejudice:  four blog posts from Dana Huff, a high school English teacher, on her Huffenglish blog: [these are from 2008, but I just discovered them… see disclaimer above!]


More handsome men reading Austen at the Carte Noire website, this time Joseph Fiennes and Sense and Sensibility.  And stay around for awhile and listen also to Dan Stevens, Dominic West, and Greg Wise…


Marvel Comics, after its successful five-issue run of Pride & Prejudice, will be publishing its latest venture into Jane Austen territory with Sense & Sensibility – contact your local comics retailer and subscsribe today.  Release date is May 26, 2010


More tomorrorw….

[Posted by Deb]

Mrs. Tilney’s Bed-Chamber ~ and Henry Tilney’s Gentle Reprimand…

Today, March 23, Catherine Morland visits Mrs. Tilney’s bed-chamber,  where she expects to find some evidence of her murder by General Tilney, or even perhaps that she has been locked away in some distant tower – but Catherine realizes how gravely mistaken she has been in all her gothic musings,  perceiving “the warm beams of a western sun gaily pour[ing] through two sash windows!” … and she turns to leave…


 She was sick of exploring, and desired but to be safe in her own room, with her own heart only privy to its folly; and she was on the point of retreating as softly as she had entered, when the sound of footsteps, she could hardly tell where, made her pause and tremble. To be found there, even by a servant, would be unpleasant; but by the general (and he seemed always at hand when least wanted), much worse! She listened — the sound had ceased; and resolving not to lose a moment, she passed through and closed the door. At that instant a door underneath was hastily opened; someone seemed with swift steps to ascend the stairs, by the head of which she had yet to pass before she could gain the gallery. She had no power to move. With a feeling of terror not very definable, she fixed her eyes on the staircase, and in a few moments it gave Henry to her view.

 “Mr. Tilney!”  she exclaimed in a voice of more than common astonishment.

He looked astonished too.

“Good God!” she continued, not attending to his address.  “How came you here? How came you up that staircase?”

 “How came I up that staircase!”,  he replied, greatly surprised.  “Because it is my nearest way from the stable–yard to my own chamber; and why should I not come up it?”

 Catherine recollected herself, blushed deeply, and could say no more. He seemed to be looking in her countenance for that explanation which her lips did not afford. She moved on towards the gallery.  

“And may I not, in my turn,”  said he, as he pushed back the folding doors,  “ask how you came here? This passage is at least as extraordinary a road from the breakfast–parlour to your apartment, as that staircase can be from the stables to mine.”

“I have been,”  said Catherine, looking down,  “to see your mother’s room.”

“My mother’s room! Is there anything extraordinary to be seen there?”

“No, nothing at all. I thought you did not mean to come back till tomorrow.”

“I did not expect to be able to return sooner, when I went away; but three hours ago I had the pleasure of finding nothing to detain me. You look pale. I am afraid I alarmed you by running so fast up those stairs. Perhaps you did not know — you were not aware of their leading from the offices in common use?”

“No, I was not. You have had a very fine day for your ride.”

“Very; and does Eleanor leave you to find your way into all the rooms in the house by yourself?”

“Oh! No; she showed me over the greatest part on Saturday — and we were coming here to these rooms — but only” —[  dropping her voice ] — “your father was with us.”

“And that prevented you,” [ said Henry, earnestly regarding her. ]“Have you looked into all the rooms in that passage?”

“No, I only wanted to see — Is not it very late? I must go and dress.”

 “It is only a quarter past four” showing his watch — “and you are not now in Bath. No theatre, no rooms to prepare for. Half an hour at Northanger must be enough.”

She could not contradict it, and therefore suffered herself to be detained, though her dread of further questions made her, for the first time in their acquaintance, wish to leave him. They walked slowly up the gallery.

“Have you had any letter from Bath since I saw you?”

“No, and I am very much surprised. Isabella promised so faithfully to write directly.”

“Promised so faithfully! A faithful promise! That puzzles me. I have heard of a faithful performance. But a faithful promise — the fidelity of promising! It is a power little worth knowing, however, since it can deceive and pain you. My mother’s room is very commodious, is it not? Large and cheerful–looking, and the dressing–closets so well disposed! It always strikes me as the most comfortable apartment in the house, and I rather wonder that Eleanor should not take it for her own. She sent you to look at it, I suppose?”


“It has been your own doing entirely?”[  Catherine said nothing. After a short silence, during which he had closely observed her, he added, ] “As there is nothing in the room in itself to raise curiosity, this must have proceeded from a sentiment of respect for my mother’s character, as described by Eleanor, which does honour to her memory. The world, I believe, never saw a better woman. But it is not often that virtue can boast an interest such as this. The domestic, unpretending merits of a person never known do not often create that kind of fervent, venerating tenderness which would prompt a visit like yours. Eleanor, I suppose, has talked of her a great deal?”

“Yes, a great deal. That is — no, not much, but what she did say was very interesting. Her dying so suddenly”  (slowly, and with hesitation it was spoken),  “and you — none of you being at home — and your father, I thought — perhaps had not been very fond of her.”

“And from these circumstances,”  he replied (his quick eye fixed on hers),  “you infer perhaps the probability of some negligence — some” — (involuntarily she shook her head)  — “or it may be — of something still less pardonable.”  She raised her eyes towards him more fully than she had ever done before.  “My mother’s illness,”  he continued,  “the seizure which ended in her death, was sudden. The malady itself, one from which she had often suffered, a bilious fever — its cause therefore constitutional. On the third day, in short, as soon as she could be prevailed on, a physician attended her, a very respectable man, and one in whom she had always placed great confidence. Upon his opinion of her danger, two others were called in the next day, and remained in almost constant attendance for four and twenty hours. On the fifth day she died. During the progress of her disorder, Frederick and I (we were both at home) saw her repeatedly; and from our own observation can bear witness to her having received every possible attention which could spring from the affection of those about her, or which her situation in life could command. Poor Eleanor was absent, and at such a distance as to return only to see her mother in her coffin.”

“But your father,”  said Catherine,  “was he afflicted?”

 “For a time, greatly so. You have erred in supposing him not attached to her. He loved her, I am persuaded, as well as it was possible for him to — we have not all, you know, the same tenderness of disposition — and I will not pretend to say that while she lived, she might not often have had much to bear, but though his temper injured her, his judgment never did. His value of her was sincere; and, if not permanently, he was truly afflicted by her death.”

 “I am very glad of it,”  said Catherine;  “it would have been very shocking!”

 “If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to — Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”

 They had reached the end of the gallery, and with tears of shame she ran off to her own room…. [next chapter]  The visions of romance were over.  Catherine was completely awakened…

[Northanger Abbey, Vol. II, Chap. IX [ch. 24]]
illustration:  by C.E. Brock from 

[Posted by Deb]

Henry Tilney’s Gothic Parody

Today [March 20] is the day that the Tilneys and Catherine leave Bath for Northanger Abbey – Catherine is riding with the innumerably-caped- greatcoated Henry:

“…she found herself with Henry in the curricle, as happy a being as ever existed. A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world… the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; Henry drove so well — so quietly — without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them: so different from the only gentleman–coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important! To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.”

[NA, vol. II, ch. V] 


…and Henry begins his gothic tale setting Catherine well on her way to having her own imagination run wild.  Here is the full text, as you must read the whole!:

“….you must be so fond of the abbey! After being used to such a home as the abbey, an ordinary parsonage–house must be very disagreeable.” 

He smiled, and said, “You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey.”

 “To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?”

 “And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?”

 “Oh! yes — I do not think I should be easily frightened, because there would be so many people in the house — and besides, it has never been uninhabited and left deserted for years, and then the family come back to it unawares, without giving any notice, as generally happens.”

 “No, certainly. We shall not have to explore our way into a hall dimly lighted by the expiring embers of a wood fire — nor be obliged to spread our beds on the floor of a room without windows, doors, or furniture. But you must be aware that when a young lady is (by whatever means) introduced into a dwelling of this kind, she is always lodged apart from the rest of the family. While they snugly repair to their own end of the house, she is formally conducted by Dorothy, the ancient housekeeper, up a different staircase, and along many gloomy passages, into an apartment never used since some cousin or kin died in it about twenty years before. Can you stand such a ceremony as this? Will not your mind misgive you when you find yourself in this gloomy chamber — too lofty and extensive for you, with only the feeble rays of a single lamp to take in its size — its walls hung with tapestry exhibiting figures as large as life, and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet, presenting even a funereal appearance? Will not your heart sink within you?”

“Oh! But this will not happen to me, I am sure.”

 “How fearfully will you examine the furniture of your apartment! And what will you discern? Not tables, toilettes, wardrobes, or drawers, but on one side perhaps the remains of a broken lute, on the other a ponderous chest which no efforts can open, and over the fireplace the portrait of some handsome warrior, whose features will so incomprehensibly strike you, that you will not be able to withdraw your eyes from it. Dorothy, meanwhile, no less struck by your appearance, gazes on you in great agitation, and drops a few unintelligible hints. To raise your spirits, moreover, she gives you reason to suppose that the part of the abbey you inhabit is undoubtedly haunted, and informs you that you will not have a single domestic within call. With this parting cordial she curtsies off — you listen to the sound of her receding footsteps as long as the last echo can reach you — and when, with fainting spirits, you attempt to fasten your door, you discover, with increased alarm, that it has no lock.”

 “Oh! Mr. Tilney, how frightful! This is just like a book! But it cannot really happen to me. I am sure your housekeeper is not really Dorothy. Well, what then?”

 “Nothing further to alarm perhaps may occur the first night. After surmounting your unconquerable horror of the bed, you will retire to rest, and get a few hours’ unquiet slumber. But on the second, or at farthest the third night after your arrival, you will probably have a violent storm. Peals of thunder so loud as to seem to shake the edifice to its foundation will roll round the neighbouring mountains — and during the frightful gusts of wind which accompany it, you will probably think you discern (for your lamp is not extinguished) one part of the hanging more violently agitated than the rest. Unable of course to repress your curiosity in so favourable a moment for indulging it, you will instantly arise, and throwing your dressing–gown around you, proceed to examine this mystery. After a very short search, you will discover a division in the tapestry so artfully constructed as to defy the minutest inspection, and on opening it, a door will immediately appear — which door, being only secured by massy bars and a padlock, you will, after a few efforts, succeed in opening — and, with your lamp in your hand, will pass through it into a small vaulted room.”

“No, indeed; I should be too much frightened to do any such thing.”

 “What! Not when Dorothy has given you to understand that there is a secret subterraneous communication between your apartment and the chapel of St. Anthony, scarcely two miles off? Could you shrink from so simple an adventure? No, no, you will proceed into this small vaulted room, and through this into several others, without perceiving anything very remarkable in either. In one perhaps there may be a dagger, in another a few drops of blood, and in a third the remains of some instrument of torture; but there being nothing in all this out of the common way, and your lamp being nearly exhausted, you will return towards your own apartment. In repassing through the small vaulted room, however, your eyes will be attracted towards a large, old–fashioned cabinet of ebony and gold, which, though narrowly examining the furniture before, you had passed unnoticed. Impelled by an irresistible presentiment, you will eagerly advance to it, unlock its folding doors, and search into every drawer — but for some time without discovering anything of importance — perhaps nothing but a considerable hoard of diamonds. At last, however, by touching a secret spring, an inner compartment will open — a roll of paper appears — you seize it — it contains many sheets of manuscript — you hasten with the precious treasure into your own chamber, but scarcely have you been able to decipher ‘Oh! Thou — whomsoever thou mayst be, into whose hands these memoirs of the wretched Matilda may fall’ — when your lamp suddenly expires in the socket, and leaves you in total darkness.”

“Oh! No, no — do not say so. Well, go on.”

 But Henry was too much amused by the interest he had raised to be able to carry it farther; he could no longer command solemnity either of subject or voice, and was obliged to entreat her to use her own fancy in the perusal of Matilda’s woes. Catherine, recollecting herself, grew ashamed of her eagerness, and began earnestly to assure him that her attention had been fixed without the smallest apprehension of really meeting with what he related. “Miss Tilney, she was sure, would never put her into such a chamber as he had described! She was not at all afraid.”

[NA, vol II, ch. V]

[Illustration, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Vol. 4, p. 217 (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, 1830).  From]


 Sleep well! – hope to see many of you tomorrow at our gathering to celebrate Northanger Abbey!

[Posted by Deb]

You are Cordially Invited! ~ JASNA-Vermont March 21st

You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s* March Meeting

 Ingrid Graff 


~ Learning to Love a Hyacinth:
Emotional Growth in Northanger Abbey ~  

Sunday, March 21, 2010  2 – 4 pm 
College, Hauke Conference Center
375 Maple St
Burlington VT  

Free & Open to the Public! 


Ingrid Graff is a great friend of mine and will offer us all a most entertaining talk on Northanger Abbey – so if this is not one of your favorite Austen novels [and how can it not be with Henry Tilney as the hero?!], please join us – it will become so after listening to Ingrid!


Upcoming Events: 
June 6, 2010:  Box Hill Picnic* Kelly McDonald on “Austen – Adams ~ Journeys with Jane &  Abigail” [Deb Barnum’s garden]
September 26:  JASNA President Marsha Huff on “Viewing Austen through Vermeer’s Camera Obscura” [Champlain College]
December 5: Annual Birthday Tea with Professor Peter Sabor of McGill University on the Juvenilia [Champlain College]
March 28:  “Jane Austen’s London in Fact & Fiction” with Suzanne Boden & Deb Barnum [Champlain College]

*Please contact us to be put on our mailing list for all future events

In My Mailbox…

The most recent issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World [March / April 2010, Issue 44], this issue titled “Jane Austen’s Musical World,” brought a delightful surprise – a free cd containing the six works by composers who were working in Bath in the late 18th century [see a list of the selections below], as well as  several articles on the music of Austen’s time:

~ the guest essay by Franz Joseph Hayden describing his visit to Bath in 1794

~ Maggie Lane on Jane Austen, Music Lover? where Ms. Lane posits that “Jane’s attitude toward music seems to have been occasionally hostile, often ambivalent, and only rarely enthusiastic.”

~ David Owen Norris on What was on Jane’s Ipod? on newly discovered music within the Austen family, suggesting that Eliza de Feuillide was an even more considerable pianist than previously thought, as well as the discovery of a hand-written piece possibly composed by Austen herself!

~ Patrick Wood on Thomas Linley, Mozart’s boyhood rival [and subject of one of Gainsborough’s famous paintings]

~ Mike Parker, Tidings of My Harp, “argues that Jane Austen uses the harp in her novels to identify privileged and spoilt women, while knowing little of the mechanics of the instrument herself.”  [think Mary Crawford, the Musgrove sisters and Georgiana Darcy]

~ our very own JASNA-Vermont ‘s Kelly McDonald in A Golden Time, tells of the diaries of Emma Austen-Leigh, wife of Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, which provide valuable insight into London’s music scene during the Regency – here focusing on the Knyvett family of musicians. 

~ Gillian Dooley considers the question of taste in Sense & Sensibility in Matters of Taste and its relationship to moral worth.

~ an interview with Austen scholar Richard Jenkyns – who enlightens us with admitting a special affection for Mansfield Park, thinking the latest BBC adaptation of MP “wins the competition for the worst ever adaptation of any classic novel by a mile”, and wanting most to be like Henry Tilney [but would like to marry Lizzy Bennet]!  [and I add that Jenkyns book A Fine Brush on Ivory: an Appreciation of Jane Austen (2004) is a wonderful read…]

~ articles from JASNA’s Carol Adams on the score for the 1995 P&P; JASA’s Ann Bates on their one-day symposium on Jane and Occupations; reviews of cds, letters, news from 1802, and as always, a great number of fabulous illustrations…

The enclosed cd contains works by:

  • Thomas Linley the Elder : Cantata: Awake my lyre and Invocation: Fly to my aid, O mighty love
  • Henry HarringtonEnchanting Harmonist
  • Thomas Linley the YoungerTo heal the wound a bee had made
  • William Jackson after Thomas ArneWhere the bee sucks
  • William HerschelSonata in D

Subscribe and enjoy!  Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine

[Posted by Deb]

“Scene of Dissipation & vice”…

I am lately returned from said “Scene of Dissipation & vice” i.e. London, quoting Austen’s letter of August 23, 1796 [Le Faye, Letters, no. 3], telling of her arrival in Town and finding already her “Morals corrupted” – and where I, currently re-reading Mansfield Park, saw a good number of delightful Henry and Mary Crawfords! 

 So much to tell [mostly having nothing to do with Jane Austen, I am afraid to say…] – so mainly here just want to share about one night at the theatre, where we had the privilege of seeing Private Lives, with Kim Cattrall and Matthew MacFadyen of Mr. Darcy fame, and directed by Sir Richard Eyre.  The show was in previews starting February 24, and how lucky my daughter and I were to get tickets for the 26th.  What a treat to sit in the fifth row, dead center and watch them do their magic, passion abounding both of the sexual kind and the throwing things kind! – it seems that every night in Act II the set is nearly demolished during a violent quarrel between the major parties where far more than mere words are flung at each other.

I confess wanting to go to this play largely to see “Mr. Darcy” up close and personal [who looks quite fine in a tuxedo as you can see…] – my daughter more than happy to oblige, and as she is a huge fan of both Mr. Darcy and Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall, the evening could only be a delight for all.  This production began its life in Bath and will be in London for a ten-week run – and what great fun it is!   Noel Coward’s Private Lives has been revived numerous times, first perfomed in 1930 with Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence [and a young Laurence Olivier in the supporting actor role], and most recently in 2001/2 with Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman, and as has been universally discussed, there must be a grand spark and chemistry between the leads or one should just get up and leave, the play after all being about the nature of sexual attraction!  And this works very well with  MacFadyen and Cattrall, despite a huge gap in their ages in real time [Ms. Cattrall is 53, MacFadyen a mere 35] – they play the formerly married-to-each-other Amanda and Elyot, who while honeymooning with their new spouses in the south of France discover their hotel rooms share adjoining balconies.  And from there it is all fireworks and love and lust and anger as they abandon their new spouses and perhaps their better selves for a Part II performed largely in a pajama-clad semi-drunken state as they try to figure out what to do with this nearly debilitating passion… watch out if you are in the front row! [An article from yesterday tells of Ms. Cattrall’s bruising her legs on falling into a table after a hefty shove by MacFadyen – can this be our gentlemanly Mr. Darcy??!] – these are two very self-absorbed people you would barely tolerate in real life, but thankfully for the biting wit and constant edge of Mr. Coward’s words, and the acting of all, you have sympathy for this couple in search of themselves [there was a more than audible gasp from the audience when Elyot smacks Amanda, so sympathies only go so far…]

Ms. Cattrall pulls off an English accent far better than I would have expected [one woman I talked to during intermission felt her only misstep was pronouncing a French word incorrectly!] and her comic-timing is perfect, and as expected, her clothing is fabulous – putting the play in its time frame, which perhaps helps us deal with the chauvinistic Elyot.  Act II, as mentioned, finds Amanda and Elyot in their elegant silk pajamas through nearly the end of the play, and lovely pajamas at that!  [with memories of a partially bare-chested Mr. Darcy in the mists..] – MacFadyen and Cattrall also sing quite credibly, and though it appears that Elyot is playing the piano [and I was impressed that MacFadyen has such skills!] – it seems that it was play-acted after all, but I was certainly fooled as was most everyone else!  And I must add that, as he fully displayed in the hilarious Death at a Funeral, MacFadyen’s comic timing is spot-on…

…and for another costume drama aside, Lisa Dillon plays the hapless new spouse of Elyot – poor girl and what a mess she gets herself into with this cad – and certainly a far different role than her part in Cranford  as Mary Smith:


And one other aside that does bring Austen into focus.  The woman next to me and I began  chatting about why we came to see this play –  for me, because I was a fan of MacFadyen’s for his Spooks work and the 2005 P&P – she was astonished as Austen is her favorite writer, etc, etc. – you all know the conversation that follows after that connection is established! – and the “what is your favorite book?’ was answered on her part with an almost embarrassing “Oh! I love most the one few people even like or worse have not even read – Northanger Abbey!” – well, here we were two complete strangers from two different countries, suddenly bonding over Henry Tilney, and only needing to stop talking in order to watch “Mr. Darcy” continue in his play – how bad is that for an evening in London!

Playing at:

Vaudeville Theatre
The Strand, London WC2
February 24 – May 1, 2010

Further reading and reviews:

[Posted by Deb]