Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy Takes a Dip in the Serpentine

From The Independent:



Colin Firth’s memorable wet shirt scene in Pride and Prejudice has been recreated thanks to a giant statue of Mr Darcy which has been built in The Serpentine.

Click here or on ‘view gallery’ for more photos of Colin Firth’s giant Mr Darcy

The fibreglass sculpture, which closely resembles Firth, stretches 12ft out of the water at London’s Hyde Park. The image of Firth emerging dripping wet from the lake at Lyme Park, Cheshire featured in the 1995 BBC adaption of the Jane Austen novel. The scene, which caused a stir at the time, recently topped a viewers’ poll of the most memorable TV moments ever.

The model of Darcy took a team of three sculptors in excess of two months to design, construct and paint. Lead sculptor Toby Crowther said: “The challenge for us was capturing the spirit of Darcy as handsome and noble but also aloof and proud. The Mr Darcy sculpture is a real mix of the many portrayals of Jane Austen’s most famous hero.” The sculpture will tour a number of locations before being installed in Lyme Park, where it will remain until February.

Adrian Wills, general manager of Drama, said: “Jane Austen spent a lot of time walking in Hyde Park and along the banks of the Serpentine, so we would like to think she would have approved of our new dashing Darcy.”

The statue has been built to celebrate today’s launch of new UKTV channel Drama, a free-to-air station on Sky and Freeview.


[image from BBC News]

And the Real Thing:


though I always liked this one better:


Our Austen Weekend Begins…

It is well past midnight and I should be asleep, for breakfast comes bright and early at 8 am. But – with WiFi in the room I occupy – I just had to log on and chat about this — my third — Jane Austen Weekend at Hyde Park. There are several posts about these Governor’s House Austen weekends, so I will ask you to search for them rather than try to link them for you.

This is our largest group yet (prior weekends were held in January and August), with the book I am covering: Pride and Prejudice. Of course all these active minds engendered MUCH discussion this evening, which makes for a fast ice-breaker. A couple people are lucky — they met last year over Persuasion (at which inn owner Suzanne Boden served as ‘guest lecturer’ for Friday night talks on the British navy; you can join Suzanne for this novel in 2011 [next year the focus is on Sense and Sensibility]) and have come again for a whole new novel and some new experiences. That’s the interesting thing here: this is not the first time I’ve heard people say ‘I made a friend here’.

The weekend opens with my talk (over beverages and dessert), which centers on Georgiana Darcy. We get to discuss Georgiana and her life as we know it (through Austen’s writing), and then extrapolate how a young lady of means might have spent her life by looking at the art work of three ladies.

Our August group seemed to pull a lot of information from one or two pictures of each artist – for we divide into groups to look at samples, then come together again to talk about everyone’s thoughts and ideas. It was interesting, then, in that one group was quite taken with the depiction of children our youngest artist included in her series of pictures; another group noticed the expert use of composition in one or two paintings of our teen artist; and the third group was astonished at the minute detail in depictions of interiors by our third artist.

The group tonight found life as lived at the time more interesting, and critiqued the pictures as artwork much more. They appreciated the ‘story-telling’ of our youngest artist; spotted all the social situations our teen artist had to offer; and thought the interiors were a bit ‘sad’ due to their ‘depopulatedness.’ (One person observed, in the dining room, that the table was set, but there was no one to dine! In August these lived-in but peopleless interiors made me think of the Dennis Sever House; today, tonight, this morning, it makes me think of a Royal Museum I visited in Vienna, where the rooms awaited the arrival of Empress Elisabeth [“Sisi”]). All opinions are valid, and makes clear, from a speaker’s point of view, just how the same pieces of art work strike different people.

I fear I express these thoughts badly – if I do, put it down to tiredness! And much stimulating conversation, before, during and after the talk.

So, content yourselves with ideas of lively discussion; and then talk that turned, as it always does, to books and TV, Austen’s life, England. Suffice it to say, that a pleasant evening was passed.

queen mumI write to you sitting atop a high bed (others may use the steps, but, being tall, I don’t bother with them) in the so-called “English Room“, staring between the posts of this four-poster bed at what has to be a portrait of a young Queen Mother. There is a pair of comfortable wing chairs, set to either side of the fireplace. I can imagine cosy evenings with the snow coming down (though do I use my fireplace at home when the snow tumbles down?? nope…). The tall and wide windows look out on the side lawn as well as the back porch, which beckons with its white wicker furniture. Fall is my favorite time of year – and last week’s harvest moon was just a treat to see. What shall we wake up to? In August, it was a hazy and misty dawn – very similar to that photographed at the end of the 2005 P&P, though – alas – no Mr Darcy appears out of the mist… Maybe next time.

Other P&Ps

ppAfter spending last weekend (see the post about Hyde Park) in an atmosphere dedicated to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – where other B&Bers made use of the 1995 A&E video as well as the 1980 BBC DVD, I felt compelled to track down a copy of the Rintoul/Garvie TV miniseries from 1979/1980 produced by the BBC and aired here on Masterpiece Theatre. Was this what started off my own exploration into the life and works of Austen?? Bet it was! The theme music is oh-so familiar (from an album of Masterpiece Theatre themes now bundled away in a closet, or my own crude off-air tape recording??); the actors are also familiar, either by name or face. A few years younger than Garvie herself, I surely was captivated by this Austen adaptation.

Looking at the Internet Movie Database, we find these versions of Pride & Prejudice; everyone at the B&B wondered what else was out there, but we could not come up with a more definitive list than the usual suspects of 1940, 1980, 1995 and 2005:

1967 (UK; TV); Celia Bannerman as Elizabeth and Lewis Fiander as Mr Darcy. (6 episodes)

1958 (UK; TV); Alan Badel as Darcy and Jane Downs as Elizabeth. (6 episodes)

1952 (UK; TV); Thea Holme (!) is listed as Jane Austen (she wrote a delighful book on Jane Carlyle); Daphne Slater – Elizabeth; Peter Cushing (!) – Darcy (6 episodes); I’d give a lot to see Prunella Scales as Lydia!

1938 (TV???!! ; UK): Curigwen Lewis (Lizzy); Andrew Osborn (Darcy ) (55 minutes – oh my!)

An updating of P&P in 2003: with Lizzy (Kam Heskin) as a college student; Orlando Seale is her ‘Will’ Darcy; the 1940 film; 1980 and 1995 mini series; the newest film (2005), and of course the boisterous Bride & Prejudice, part of which I watched when in England in summer 2007. Don’t think that I’ve forgotten the Bridget Jones series — just not enough room or time to discuss this type of P&P.

In the BBC version, Moray Watson plays Mr Bennet – a familiar face from the likes of Rumpole of the Bailey. Somehow Mrs Bennet (Priscilla Morgan) reminds me of Prunella Scales as Mrs Fawlty, though toned-down. Mr Wickham (Peter Settelen) seemed a face recognized from somewhere: IMDB solved that one: he was Sandy in Flambards, which played here about the same time period as this P&P.

David Rintoul brings a hauteur rarely seen in Darcy — and not out of character. And those long, lingering looks at Lizzy! Charlotte Lucas is oh so right in noticing that this Darcy admires Miss Elizabeth Bennet, almost from the start. (Rintoul is possibly best remembered for his Doctor Finlay series in the 90s.) And Elizabeth Garvie is a quiet, but on-point Elizabeth Bennet. [I hadn’t realized that she lost her husband, actor Anton Rodgers, in December 2007…. he was in so many Britcoms that ran here in Vermont.]

I must agree with one Netflix reviewer who thought this version’s comic characters less over the top than the A&E series. How true: Mr Collins (Malcolm Rennie) is a delight as the silly and long-winded clergyman (can you imagine him in the pulpit???). I’ve yet to experience Judy Parfitts’ Lady Catherine, but have loved her in many shows, including The Jewel in the Crown. Charlotte Lucas (Irene Richard) is the voice of reason here, just as she is in the book. A wise head on those young shoulders (I will blog later on my thoughts that Charlotte at 27 is not quite ‘past it’…). And Lydia (Natalie Ogle) is sweet and flighty without being cloyingly annoying; Mary (Tessa Peake-Jones) is a talented-yet-can’t-really-play-or-sing-well middle sister who here DOES seem rather the obvious (and willing) choice for Mr Collins — she even reads Fordyce’s Sermons!; something Joe Wright and his screenwriter picked up on for their 2005 film. How much more conniving this Miss Bingley (Marsha Fitzalan) seems – you really feel her sticking the knife in. How REAL the characters seem when they are not caricatures.

Coincidently, Deb is also watching this version (actually, she’s comparing it to the 1995 version) — so you will be hearing more about Rintoul, Garvie et al quite soon.

Alistair Cooke’s thoughts on the series can be found in his A DECADE OF MASTERPIECE THEATRE MASTERPIECES (1981). Gosh!! how well I remember buying this large hardcover at Capitol Stationers on Burlington’s Church Street. Such memories… Cooke cattily comments that this series is “so squeakily clean as to suggest at times a doll’s house with doll-like emotions” but he goes on to praise Fay Weldon’s script which “was dramatized, over four careful years”. That care shows in so many lines from the novel expertly utilized. And who doesn’t know Weldon’s own work. Cooke quotes Weldon in a thought-provoking passage — “Miss Weldon explained why Jane Austen appears to many young readers remote and bewildering: ‘Partly because of the way in which it is written, partly because of the subtlety with which she examines the intricacies of human behavior, and mainly because the society she describes has gone forever. She anatomizes a world where women of a certain class can survive only through men…’.” Cooke again: “In all her novels, Jane Austen’s narrator is a dual character: the heroine as participant and the heroine (J.A.?) as onlooker.” A succinct description of Austen’s narrator, which here sides with Lizzy (and changes as Lizzy changes opinions) in how the reader is presented the world contained in the novel. Weldon’s “adaptation demonstrated a fine ear for the spare, exquisite language of the original and a ready talent for taking Jane’s maliciously cheerful view of social pretension.” Cooke goes so far as to say: “Viewers who dislike this Pride and Prejudice do not like Jane Austen”! I end with one Cooke comment that says something few would have dared think: “Dickens, the author-hero of his time, ends most of his romances on a love-dovey note that Jane would have giggled at.” Touché!

8 Feb 2009 update: after reading Joan’s email, I went back to IMDB – looking for Austen-related series and films. There turned up a De Vier dochters Bennet (1961). In German Vier is four, so the same undoubtedly holds for Dutch. So who got axed?? From the cast credits: Kitty!

I love that the 1967 production ‘labeled’ their episodes, thus: Pride (episode one); Proposal (2); Prejudice (3); Elopement (4); and (5) Destiny.

I am most surprised to see a new EMMA in the works! (listed as in pre-production, for television in 2009); the ‘trivia’ lists this a as production begun in 1995 – but put on hold because Miramax and Meridient were producing the same novel for film and TV. No cast announced.

All-Weekend Pride & Prejudice…

It is later-evening and S&S (back on PBS) is playing in the background as I write, but I had to take a few moments to write on the weekend I just spent in Hyde Park (Vermont). It was a Jane Austen Weekend, held at The Governor’s House at Hyde Park, a Bed & Breakfast run by JASNA member Suzanne Boden.

We were an intimate party that gathered Friday night – Wednesday’s foul weather caused a couple cancellations. Myself and three others stayed the entire weekend, participating in all the events: tea, book discussion, and breakfast-quiz.

On Friday night, I talked (rather at length, I’m afraid!) on Georgiana Darcy and the early-nineteenth century lady-artists Mary Yelloly, Diana Sperling, and Lili Cartwright. Given the intimate setting, I passed the books containing the albums of these ladies. Time went so quickly.

On Saturday there was free time in the morning and early afternoon, then a tea which brought such familiar faces as Hope Greenberg, who – as a member of the Burlington Country Dancers – danced at our December Austen Birthday Tea, and her daughter, and JASNA member Debbie Lynde, who came with a friend. Some delicious tea, served with a diverse variety of sandwiches, scones, breads. Suzanne read some excerpts on Tea and serving tea.

Saturday night our B&Bers were joined by an even larger group, and I was happy to meet the Olivers – who joined our JASNA chapter not too long ago. Jim is one of our three male members! Time passed quickly this evening too, and the dinner was extensive and very well received by all. The “book” discussion, of course, included many references to and comments about the Ehle-Firth P&P. One B&Ber watched the entire mini-series over the three days!

Sunday began with a quick muffin & tea/coffee breakfast, but concluded with a lovely brunch. The Austen quiz help point out that so many Jeopardy-type of questions can come out of Austen’s writing! (I never do well on such brain-picking quizzes…).

Have laundry to do, and a work-week to begin – so will log off tonight. But I hope to add some more thoughts in the coming days… stay tuned!