A Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea!

DA - tea partyDSC08897The local Library in Bluffton South Carolina has been having weekly Downton Abbey discussions since the first episode of Season 3, all culminating in an Afternoon Tea this past week. A Season recap, Delicious fare, Fine company, Gorgeous hats, and Games of trivia to test our Downton Abbey brain power! –  all staged with perfect finesse by Amanda, our fearless leader and Reference Librarian, the intent to keep us all (over 70 of us!) from falling into a deep Downton Abbey depression. We toasted Julian Fellowes, bid our adieus to Sybil and Matthew and wondered aloud as to where the show shall take us next year, alas! eleven months of impatient waiting.  We were asked which actor would we most like to have dinner with; which actor we would most like to be in a scene with; our favorite quotes; most memorable scene? and trivia questioned on our knowledge of all things Downton [like: Where does Lord Grantham sit at the dinner table? What is the proper dress for a dinner at home without guests? Where is the story set? Where is the actual Highclere Castle?, etc…] – most of us found we should have to re-watch all three seasons to get a a passing grade!

I append some pictures to share the day, with a Hearty Thanks to Amanda and the Friends of the Bluffton Library for all their efforts to prolong the Downton Abbey season as long as possible – I think even Violet would approve!

Delicious fare!

Delicious fare!

Our Gracious Hostess Amanda

Our Gracious Hostess Amanda

...and her gorgeous hat!

…and her gorgeous hat!

Our very own Mrs Patmore

Our very own Mrs Patmore

Our very own Mr Carson

Our very own Mr Carson

A bevy of Hats!

A bevy of Hats!

Best hat for Afternoon Tea!

Best hat for Afternoon Tea!

The long wait until next January!

The long wait until next January!

DA outdoor tea

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

Downton Abbey and the Tale of an Edible Salmon Mousse

This past week’s Downton Abbey had its usual witty remarks from all quarters, Violet yet again leading the pack.  But my favorite by far came from Mrs. Patmore, as she says to Ethel:

Mrs Patmore and Ethel - PBS

“Anyone who has use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse.”


My mother-in-law always made salmon mousse – I cannot recall a single family gathering where it was not upon the table, eye and all – and to keep me from forgetting these family gatherings, I actually inherited her much-used salmon mousse mold – but alas! have not put it to any use, despite having all limbs in fairly good working order.

But recipes abound if you should want to try – and if Ethel could pull this off, it should be easy sailing:

This is from the website Downton Abbey Cooks, worth a visit for the show’s food history and great recipes [there IS a great deal of cookikng and eating!], all from Pamela Foster, author of Abbey Cooks Entertain:

Smoked Salmon Mousse Pinwheels

DA Cooks - salmon mousse pinwheels

a colorful dish for cocktails or tea.

This sandwich adds a lovely punch of color to your tea tray, contrasting dark pumpernickel bread with deep orange smoked salmon. The Ritz London serves a similar version with whisky, but I like the fresh flavors of vodka and dill. You are only limited by your imagination.


  • 1/3   cup non fat greek yoghurt
  • 1      tbsp. minced chives
  • 2      tbsp. whisky
  • 4      ounces smoked salmon
  • 1      1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Sandwiches

  • 12      slices dark wheat or pumpernickel bread, crusts removed
  • 2      ounces cold smoked salmon, cut into strips: you can also use hot smoked      salmon as pictured above


To make the mousse

Put the greek yoghurt, chives, vodka, salmon, lemon juice and pepper in a food processor and process for 20 to 30 seconds or until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days to let the flavours blend.

To make the sandwiches

Roll the bread slices flat with a rolling pin . Spread the salmon mousse on one side of each slice and arrange pieces of smoked salmon on top. Roll up and place seam side down on a serving plate. Cover with a damp tea towel or paper towels until ready to serve.

You can make larger pinwheels by cutting in half diagonally and stand on the flat edge. You can also cut into smaller bite sized 2 inch angled sections.

Makes 12 large or 24 mini pinwheels

book cover - Abbey Cooks


Here are links to other recipes, some made in the mold, some in bowls:


Perhaps Ethel’s praise-worthy attempts to be a cook who actually cooks something edible and Mrs. Patmore’s kindness in helping, despite the grousing of Mr. Carson, might indeed see “the return of the salmon mousse,” even in my house.

Salmon Mousse - Food Network

Salmon Mousse – Food Network

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

Final Thoughts ~ Emma Part III

OK, I confess, I watched it again [remember our PBS here in Vermont showed the last episode LAST week right after Part II; this week our PBS re-ran Miss Austen Regrets] – but I did watch it again, just to be sure I hadn’t missed anything – they do take us on a rather quick ride from Box Hill to three marriages and Mr. Woodhouse’s fear of turkie robberies…

My major and final thought is “Thank you Jonny Lee Miller” – he redeemed this show in almost every way. And also with thanks to Sandy Welch who whacked the dialogue throughout to fit her own take on a 21st century Emma – but at least she left the proposal scene relatively intact, and despite THE KISS, it finished off quite nicely.

As mentioned above, this third part starts with Emma sitting with her father at Donwell Abbey – so nice to see the fine Donwell interior, and Emma’s unfaltering consideration of her father’s comfort. Mr. Knightley proud to bring Emma to his home, “the first time in eighteen months,” he tellingly points out. And there is a moment when he suggests to Emma that she looks almost the mistress of Donwell in her tender assistance to an “exhausted” Jane Fairfax. […more of those now obvious hints, but what is a screenwriter to do?].  Mr. Elton is seen dragging his darling wife to the Donwell strawberry picking on a donkey – seems a bit much for the local pastor but conveys all of their high-browed-ness in a few short minutes, Mrs. E. as per usual, “overly trimmed.”

We witness yet another spoiled-brat fit of Frank Churchill’s – the heat, the company, “sick of England,” all setting him off – but charmingly brought out of his bad humor by Emma, seen draping yet again all over the sofa. And then on to their scene at Box Hill – well done indeed! – [but really, would even the childish Emma and the anti-propriety Frank be so very bold in their display of affection at the picnic?! – I was embarrassed sitting in my own living room for this breach of 19th-century etiquette! – his head in her lap?! Yikes!- lavender water please…]

From here on, everything moves very quickly: Miss Bates of course is soundly insulted by Emma, and though a bit more morose than in other productions, the effects of this is well presented as all scatter to their separate corners of the hill, preferring solitude over such a gathering of mis-matched spirits. And here again, Mr. Knightley, all-seeing, performs his “badly done” absolutely perfectly – Emma seeing herself as others might see her for the first time, “anger against herself, mortification and deep concern,” the pivotal scene in the book, and here shown with Emma having what might be her first-ever sleepless night [lovely music here]… A visit the following day to Miss Bates, the farewell of Mr. Knightley with the attempted kiss to her hand [nicely done – an important scene…and glad this was not left out]; Mr. Woodhouse’s lament of “wanderlust” [I loved this!]; and then the news of Frank and Jane Fairfax, acquiring another “badly done indeed” from Emma, this scene also well done with Mr. Weston looking on, concern for Emma; a sort of bizarre set-piece with Frank and Jane kissing and dancing in the street; a few scenes with the perfectly cast John Knightleys worried about George’s bad humor; then the Harriet chat where Emma discovers to her horror that it is not Frank Churchill but MR. KNIGHTLEY that Harriet has been obsessing over, after which Emma really kicks her out of the house; and finally Emma’s wrenching monologue that it is “too late, too late” as she discovers her own heart after all….

All the above with the same wonderful decorations, gardens, fashions and food we have come to expect – and we are not disappointed – I am all forgiveness of nearly everything you see, because of all this loveliness – and also because they got the ending right, a very nice surprise, and with only a few caveats….

You all know [and I am almost sick of saying this myself] that Richard Armitage was born for this role of Mr. Knightley – so it took awhile for me to get over it [as well as Romola Garai’s eye-popping emotionals, but enough of that – she grows on you…] But Jonny Lee Miller pulled it off after all – nearly perfectly really – and this scene was given the time it needed [though why Emma had to be hiding behind a tree just added to her childishness – I thought she had perhaps grown up at this point?…] – my only real quibble with this whole proposal being so: in the book, Mr. Knightley, thinking that Emma is suffering the pangs of lost love over Frank Churchill, takes her arm [no contact in the movie and why not, I ask?]

 …till she found her arm drawn within his, and pressed against his heart and heard him thus saying, in a tone of great sensibility, speaking low, ‘Time my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound…’

And they continue to talk, until Knightley begins to say what in the movie is “his secret is out at least” in the book is “you will not ask me what is the point of envy” – Emma silences him and he says “I will obey you” and walks away [not so in the book – He is silenced “in deep mortification” – they walk to the house together and then take another turn when she wishes him to continue] – but here thankfully they keep most of the language. Either direct or in spirit:

          “As a friend!” repeated Mr. Knightley. “Emma, that I fear is a word — No, I have no wish — Stay, yes, why should I hesitate? I have gone too far already for concealment. Emma, I accept your offer, extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend. Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?”
           He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.
          “My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma — tell me at once. Say ‘No,’ if it is to be said.” She could really say nothing. “You are silent,” he cried, with great animation; “absolutely silent! at present I ask no more.”
           Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominent feeling.
          “I cannot make speeches, Emma,” he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing. “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover. But you understand me. Yes, you see, you understand my feelings — and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.”
[Emma, vol. III, ch.XIII]

Austen of course, gives her usual narrated proposal scene –

-What did she say? – Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.-

We do get a little more here – a gentle, tender avowal of love and sealed with a kiss. Very nicely done, of course…and from here on in they only hold hands… And all ends with the news being broken to Mr. Woodhouse [Emma’s crying-jag scene, so much shown in the trailer, was blessedly short-lived and Mr. Knightley’s generosity of moving to Hartfield lovingly accepted]; Harriet and Robert Martin are united under the eye of Mr. Elton’s withering gaze; the turkies are thankfully “pilfered” and Emma and her Mr. Knightley ride off in a lovely carriage [holding hands] to their “ fortnight’s absence in a tour to the seaside”, ending thus gazing out to the sea, rather than with a wedding and the uninvited Mrs. Elton’s pronouncement on the “shabbiness” of the proceedings…

So the real test is will I buy the movie? – aah yes, I will, but then an Austen fan always does…

All the episodes of Emma will be available online through March 9, 2010 at the Masterpiece Classic website [lots of other great things there also!]

[Posted by Deb]

More Random Thoughts ~ Emma Part II

Well, not sure what happened here Sunday night in the North Country, but my PBS-HD station played not only Episode II, but also Episode III! – This was not on the online schedule, but I went in to DVR the 9pm program and saw that the 10-11 slot also said “Masterpiece Classic” – I assumed it was a re-run, but the “info” button suggested the final episode – did anyone else have this delightful gift from PBS??  So that said, I am only going to share a few thoughts about the second show, those certainly being colored by the final chapter … especially by the filming of the pivotal scene at Box Hill.

 I agree with most everything that I said above:

The Good: the fabulous clothing, museum-like houses and their decorative accessories, the gardens, the ornate flower arrangements, the finely-done cinematography, the music, and most of the characters with noted caveats [see more below]…

The Bad, but not so bad really: the language is still off, so forgetting largely that this is set in the early 19th century, we have 21st century teenagers who like to dress up – sort of a Regency House Party rather than authentic Austen with people who couldn’t remember their lines… … but enjoyable anyway. I am, you may have noticed, not a purist in the sense of everything must be Austen or relegated to the trash bin – the spirit of Austen is here in so many ways, and coupled with great views, and a liveliness that cannot help but draw you in…

So the Good, the Bad, and thankfully nothing ugly… but some new scenes, new characters, and new suggested plot lines to be explored:


Mrs. Elton and Mr. Elton – Christina Cole brings the right amount of snobbishness, status-obsession, and manipulative machinations as Austen created her – she is sufficiently overdone in manner and clothing [though she “dislikes being overtrimmed”, this said while verily dripping in ribbons and yellow feathers], and seems the perfect match for Mr. Elton, who appears more foppish than ever… what a pair! I am glad they found each other and spared others such a match.  And nice to see Mr. Elton actually preaching a sermon, the serious and obviously-needed-in-Highbury “let deceitful lips be dumb” … [I did however find Mrs. Elton’s ridiculous curls more appropriate for her rather than Harriet, whose hair continues to be all wrong for the character, despite liking this Harriet in every other sense…]

We see more of Frank Churchill [not quite right for the part and I am not sure why – should he have been more dashing and elegant? rather than so hyper-active and immature, one minute dancing around, the next sulking like a spoiled brat – is this maybe more true to what Austen wrote? [I need to re-read the book yet again on this one!]- I do wonder though why he felt the need to fling himself off his horse on each dismount – quite funny really!

Jane Fairfax is all wrong – she looks and acts like a waif about to fall into a swoon and drift away – she IS supposed to be more lovely than Emma, strikingly handsome, albeit a little pale, accomplished in all things; I could see Mr. Knightley more interested in Harriet Smith than this Jane…so this key part of the plot seems to fall flat…

Miss Bates just doesn’t get enough screen time to give us more of her comedic babbling… Tamsin Greig is currently the star in the London play, The Little Dog Laughed, where evidently she is stealing the show with her humor – more of that needed here perhaps?

Emma’s eyes continue to pop and bulge at every possible moment of surprise, awe, sadness, anger, concern, fear – but Romala Garai is growing on me – the further I move away from the Emma “as she was wrote,” I begin to find this almost child-like Emma endearing – but I do hope she grows up some in Episode III…or Knightley just might rightly decide to stay in London…  One plus, the male narrator who speaks in the first part seems to have been fired after all, and we do hear Emma’s thoughts as she begins to doubt her own long-held belief that she knows EVERYTHING – her reasoning that this lethargy and listlessness MUST be the love of Frank Churchill begins her much-needed introspection – she IS hopefully growing up… [her absolute hissy-fit when she walks home from Mrs. Elton’s, raging about her calling him “Knightley” is spot-on:

“Insufferable woman!” was her immediate exclamation. “Worse than I had supposed. Absolutely insufferable! Knightley! I could not have believed it. Knightley! never seen him in her life before, and call him Knightley! and discover that he is a gentleman! A little upstart, vulgar being, with her Mr. E., and her caro sposo, and her resources, and all her airs of pert pretension and under-bred finery. Actually to discover that Mr. Knightley is a gentleman! I doubt whether he will return the compliment, and discover her to be a lady. I could not have believed it!

[Emma, vol. II, ch 32]  – this is Emma in teenage mode – and funny – the first time I think she sees Knightley as someone other than her father’s daily visitor, someone who other people relate to, have thoughts about… and Emma does not like it. Well done in the movie!

Mr. Knightley also continues to improve for me – Miller’s furrowed brow, his vigilant observation of everything going on around him, his good sense and steady presence serves to act as a foil to this Emma who is in such need of his good guidance. And this is countered with Knightley’s apparent change in feelings toward Emma – a shift in his own world that unnerves him, he often looking quite grave – this of course not so clearly shown in the book [but there if you are looking for the clues!] – so though some of the “mystery” of Emma is lost in these glimpses into Mr. Knightley’s feelings – it does make it so clear that they must and will end up together…

 Emma [Garai] & Mr. Knightley [Miller]

The Dance is fabulous! – the extravagant fashions [Emma’s dress is so lovely!] – the bouncing jaunty hand-clapping country dances are just great fun; the Harriet as wallflower / Mr. Elton snub, with Mr. Knightley to the rescue rightly sets Emma on the path to seeing him in a different light – and their dance together is, as in all the Austen adaptations, such a turning point in the story [recall the 1995 P&P Elizabeth and Darcy dance; the 2005 same scene where all disappears as Elizabeth and Darcy focus only on each other] – the dance in the 18th-19th century was the only way men and women could flirt, touch, and get to know each other – and here it seems is the first time that Knightley and Emma actually do connect in this way – the feelings of both undergoing some fundamental change. But major complaint here! – one of the most telling lines in the book is when Emma suggests Mr. Knightley dance with her:

Emma was extremely gratified. – They were interrupted by the bustle of Mr. Weston calling on every body to begin dancing again.
“Come Miss Woodhouse, Miss Otway, Miss Fairfax, what are you all doing? -Come Emma, set your companions the example. Every body is lazy! Every body is asleep!”
“I am ready,” said Emma, “whenever I am wanted.”
“Whom are you going to dance with?” asked Mr. Knightley.
She hesitated a moment, and then replied, “With you, if you will ask me.”
“Will you?” said he, offering his hand.
“Indeed I will. You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”
“Brother and sister! no, indeed.”

[Emma, vol. III, ch, 38, p. 332] – a prime piece of dialogue and should have been included…

I am feeling like Mr. Woodhouse is not in the movie enough, so does not show this very generous and compassionate side of Emma [but just as I was thinking this – Part III starts with such a scene – so ok after all…I will say no more].  Also I did check about the John Knightleys – they indeed do have FIVE children: Henry, John, Bella, George, and Emma.

One other scene that is changed from the book is at the beginning of Part II – [vol. II, ch. 10, 244 ff] Mr. Knightley is called in from the street by Miss Bates to visit them – he is ready to do so until Miss Bates tells him Frank Churchill is there as well – he immediately changes his mind and raises his voice for all to hear his comments about Jane Fairfax – in the movie he comes in – a fine difference, but a telling point in this change of Knightley’s feelings toward Emma.

Laura Linney begins this second episode suggesting that Jane Austen’s works might be considered “too ordinary and narrow” for today’s world of super-human action stories the likes of Spiderman and the extremes of techno-thrillers and special effects – what can Austen give us in this non-magical world of Emma Woodhouse? She concludes that we are given a view into the world of people who are really just like you and me – the steady ones, the loving, the amusing, the annoying, the manipulating and greedy, all the believable characters that make up our daily lives – Emma is an “authentic human being” says Linney, who with an over-developed sense of her own importance has created quite the mess. We see her grow and become aware and realize that she does live in a very closed world and that perhaps her ideas are limited – I am enjoying seeing her come to these realizations, her blinders slowing slipping away, extravagant eye-popping or not! – and there are still those lovely costumes and decorating ideas to ponder…

The Masterpiece website for all things Emma; you can also watch the first two episodes online until March 9th here.

Stay tuned for Part III…

[photo from Costume Drama Reviews]

[Posted by Deb]

Random Thoughts on the Masterpiece ‘Emma’

So, some VERY random thoughts – no time really to actually write anything, but figure this is better than nothing…[maybe…] – no pictures either… [ok, maybe one…]

First, I had the opportunity to watch this new Emma when it first came out – decided against viewing it on my computer screen, as I figured the best part of it would likely be the settings, so very glad I was patient [I am not known for my patience…] and I dutifully watched Part I last night.  It did not disappoint, either in the above-mentioned setting category, or in the expectation – long gleened from the various other reviews out there – that this was not an Emma of the early 19th century, but rather some 21st century rendition of how Austen might translate her own work to be understood by the watching masses… so here are my random thoughts:

The Past:  the whole movie starts with a rapid foray into the past to see how Emma’s mother dies [did we really need to see her in her coffin?]; how she and her sister are raised by the lovely Miss Taylor, and coddled and over-protected by their father; how little Frank Churchill is sadly sent off to live with his aunt; how John Knightley and Isabella are seen in a pre-marriage cavorting about in the garden while Emma and George [and we learn his name right at the beginning] look on; how Emma puts Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston together under an umbrella where love blooms; and FINALLY we get to the beginning of the book where the marriage has just taken place… none of this is in the book, only inferred, but its sets the story in time and place and we now know all… this is all necessary I suppose for those who have not read the book [to which I say, GO READ THE BOOK…]

The Fashions are to die for, and I like that Emma actually wears the same dress on different days, albeit with some ribbon-changing  – I especially liked the turquoise – just lovely… I liked all the clothing, even Mr. Martin had on a fine pair of pants and boots…Mr. Knightley of course looked fabulous…

The Houses, exterior and interior are absolutely superb – I have a gold damask Chippendale sofa in my living room and thus was especially pleased to see several of them scattered about.  I wanted to pause each frame and take notes.  I want to go on a tour of the actual houses – but now unfortunately I want redecorate my whole house, and this will not do [or so my husband informs me…]… Donwell Abbey was a treat to see – a tad forbidding – no wonder Mr. Knightley puts his coat on every day, opens the door, takes in a breath of fresh air, puts on his hat, and heads over to the Woodhouses.  And I liked the “Sed Semper Amico” over his inner door – seems to mean “but always for a friend” and was often on the entryways of country houses [and why does Google Translator not offer LATIN as a translation option?]

The Gardens – perfect specimens –  Mr. Ripton would be pleased – again, I want to freeze-frame them all, especially those at Hartfield – and thus need also to redo my gardens once they are uncovered of snow…

The Carriages, Horses: again, a visual feast – one thought is that Mr. Elton seems to be on his horse a lot… but rightly so, Mr. Knightley rarely uses his carriage…

The Town – it was nice to see the very real dirty streets – complete with horse pooh and working men – that said, it still seemed a bit manicured and one could almost imagine the camera men off to the side – but the pooh was a nice touch…

The Narrator: not sure why Miss Austen’s all-seeing narrator [who is obviously female] wasn’t hired for the job, but we seem to have a man’s voiceover that sounds suspiciously like Mr. Knightley, which sort of skews the content a bit [like who actually knows any of the upcoming “secrets”?]

The Language – well, this is the kicker really – now we know for sure we are in the 21st century with a group of people who just like to dress up funny – I thought for awhile that since it is so visually beautiful and as I do know the story after all, that I could just sit there for the two hours and watch – no sound…

The Music – well, I liked this – it added to the comic effect… can’t wait for the dancing part….

Production discrepancies:  there is snow all over Highbury on Christmas Eve, but all is green when Emma next visits Harriet only a few days later at Miss Goddards [I confess I need to check how much later she does this…] – there are likely more but I did not dwell on this…


 Mr. Woodhouse – Michael Gambon a delight! – though he did indeed look a tad TOO hardy, it really just added to the humor of his being so obsessed with his body – I did, however, have a few fears that he might choke on all those scarves and shawls hanging about him…

Miss Bates – too early to tell anything about her, so I await Part II to decide.  She is certainly not as silly as the Paltrow version [though I liked Sophie Thompson in this very much – she gave her Miss Bates a poignancy that rang true to Austen’s text] –  the emphasis here seems to be more pathetic than comic.  And I was appalled at the scene where she leaves Hartfield pushing her mother in a wheelchair down the road – surely even the self-absorbed Emma would not have just waved goodbye and turned into her house! – this doesn’t bode well for Box Hill…

Miss Taylor / Mrs. Weston – I love Johdi May [she is brilliant in both Daniel Deronda and The Mayor of Casterbridge], but she seems wasted here, with just a few scenes of her knowing smirks and smiles – but she has several lovely outfits… [oh, and Mr. Weston seems a fine fellow…]

Frank Churchill – Rupert Evans is great so far – but not enough to judge by yet.  I do wonder why they had to put that scene in there of his meeting Emma on the road – it adds too soon to the watcher that he is not all that he seems, and unnecessary to the tale…

The John Knightleys – they seem to be well drawn in their small roles to convey the basics of their characters, so well-done on this score [I need to look again – do they have FIVE children??]

Robert Martin – he is physically perfect for the role – so this works too…

Harriet Smith – much better than in previous Emmas – Louise Dylan’s Harriet is not such a blank slate, just very sweet and indecisive and all obliging, with way too many curls.  The scene of her portrait painting is hysterical…

Mr. Elton – with his rather odd over attachment to his horse, Blake Ritson nails the simpering, over-zealous, pompous Mr. Elton perfectly – he just slithers onto the screen! – loved the coach scene – look forward to his return to Highbury with his £20,000 wife next week [and if anyone is getting their Austen confused at this point, it is likely because we have TWO Edmund Bertrams in this Emma – Ritson and Miller both have portrayed Austen’s least-likely (or is that least-liked) hero on the screen …]

Mr. Knightley – ok, the one you have been waiting for… I still cannot let go of my wish for Richard Armitage in this role – now lost forever in screen history as who knows when the next Emma will be made [perhaps he can play Mr. Woodhouse in a few years?] – but once I got into the swing of this 21st century Emma, I see that Jonny Lee Miller passes muster in this role – more like a big affectionate brother, always correcting, the great overseer, a pleasant sort of fellow, but not the Knightley [Knightley, she calls him Knightley!] on the page, who is much more austere and mature and distant.  But since they changed the story to the extent they have, Miller works for me – will see about next week, as I hear he gets better…

Emma – drum roll please: aahh! Emma – can anyone get this right?? Austen could not have imagined a world filled with moving pictures trying desperately to put her enigmatic Emma to a visual test…can’t be done I think…. So we have Romola Garai, like Miller, playing this role exactly as the writer [not Austen] and director wanted her to be – i.e. an early 19th century woman, dressed appropriately but acting like a 21st century teenager [and Emma is NOT a teenager] – the intention stated early on that this movie is to bring in another generation of watchers [and hopefully readers] – so Emma is annoying – she is playful to be sure, but rarely acts like the lady she is, always sort of draping herself over the furniture – I had difficulty with Garai in Daniel Deronda – she kept stooping forward and turning her head in the oddest way – and here, she seems to be suffering from a nervous “tic” of some sort, with these bizarre facial expressions that would have been unseemly in a time where one kept these personal feelings to themselves, certainly not baring them openly for all to see.  But again, if I step back from the page and just accept what is on the screen, she is endearing enough I suppose…. More thoughts on her after Part II airs…

So my final grade? – oh, I am afraid I am much too easy, despite my dislike of all this Austen stuff that isn’t Austen at all, I think I just know that a film of any Austen will not work to our satisfaction [recall the brouhaha after the 2005 P&P!] – so I will just sit back and enjoy this visual feast, hone my decorating and fashion skills, and go to bed early and re-read the real thing…

 what are some of YOUR random thoughts?

[Posted by Deb]

ps – oh dear, I completely forgot Jane Fairfax! a bit of a mouse really, that’s why – more after Part II… [lovely voice though…]

ps2 – completely forgot to comment on the cinematography, which, like all the settings was first rate and really makes the film.  The scene with Emma at the window looking back at her past imagining herself and her sister playing in the hallway, juxtaposed with the scene in the window of Mr. Knightley jaunting his way down the path to visit is a beautiful frame – though this does imply her future and thus gives away the plot – but since all the secrets have been mostly let out of the bag, I suppose we can just enjoy its loveliness?

A Web Round-up ~ All Things Austen [and a little bit of Bronte]

Since I am flunking blogging this week, I will just share some links that I have seen or heard about in the past week  “all things Austen” of course with a few others thrown in for interest:

An article at Salon.com by Laura Miller:  The battle for Jane Austen: Great novelist, chick-lit pioneer, vampire. Will the real Miss Austen please stand up?  [are YOU sick of zombies and sea-monsters and vampires?] [and thanks to Ellen M for the link]

Penguin Classics On Air has  interviews with Sheila Kohler, author of Becoming Jane Eyre, and the Austen scholar Juliette Wells, who speaks on the Brontes, their contribution to literature, and her love of teaching the writings of the Victorian era.

Visit the Austenonly blog and scroll down through the almost daily posting on Emma in celebration of the new Masterpiece Classic’s BBC Emma to be shown FINALLY in the US starting tomorrow night [Sunday January 24, 2010] and then see of course…

 The Masterpiece Classic Emma site which offers previews, reviews, background story, cast bios, and online viewings of the film [which will debut Monday the 25th].  Masterpiece will also be hosting a wild and crazy “Twitter Party” on Sunday night during the show- click here for more information on how to participate [reason enough to finally register yourself on Twitter and join the “tweeting” world at last!]

JASNA-NY co-sponsored the Morgan Library Masterpiece Emma event this past Wednesday night.  There are three videos from this evening’s events now on YouTube for your viewing pleasure [with thanks to Janeite Kerri from JASNA-NY for the tip and links!]:

the Morgan Library curators Declan Kiely and Clara Drummond on Austen’s letters in the exhibition:

and Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of Masterpiece Classic on Emma:


And Alessandra Stanley at the New York Times weighs in on this latest Emma – see her review “It’s Still Mostly Sunny at Hartfield”.

[Posted by Deb]

Charles Dickens ~ February 7, 1812

I direct you to my Bygone Books blog for a short birthday tribute to Charles Dickens.  And don’t forget to watch Part 2 of Sense & Sensibility Sunday night February 8th on Masterpiece Classic, followed by MONTHS  of Dickens adaptations beginning on February 15th! A perfect antidote to winter…