Thursday, 31 January 2013

Monday, 28 January 2013

200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice

Not for nothing is Pride and Prejudice often cited as Britain’s favourite novel, or the one that I do without. In writing this book Jane Austen created two characters who have delighted audiences since its publication 200 years ago. Until Lawrence Olivier, and more recently Colin Firth, set female hearts swooning as Mr Darcy, the focus was on the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet.

Although these handsome and charismatic actors have caused a distraction it is perhaps Elizabeth who is the finer and more original creation. Sweet but forthright, pretty but not beautiful, brave but not bold, intelligent but not boring, she is, for many women, the perfect role model.

Was Elizabeth a self portrait? This seems to be highly unlikely, but she is most probably the woman Jane Austen wanted to be. As she says: “I do think her the most delightful creature ever to appear in print”, and who can argue with her?

By the time the novel was published Jane Austen was no longer the giddy girl who first created this delightful creature. Described by one observer as a “husband hunting butterfly” while still in her teens, she had become the mature, worldly-wise spinster by her early thirties. By then she had seen boyfriends come and go, brothers marry and be widowed, had been uprooted several times and witnessed her country at war. She probably no longer believed in happy ever after in quite the same way as she had when she planned the book, but still wanted to share the delightful optimism and spirit of her heroine.

Written initially as First Impression while living at Steventon at her father’s rectory, it became Pride and Prejudice sometime after, and received its final revision at Chawton Cottage, now known as Jane Austen’s House Museum. This is the home from which this most famous novel was published and from where she wrote to her sister Cassandra the now immortal line: “I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London” on receiving her first copy of the book.

In this bicentenary year I invite everyone to share in the excitement. Read the book, watch the adaptations, visit the place where it all began.

Pride and Prejudice is my second favourite novel.  I love how Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have all these misunderstandings and then finally get married and live happily ever after! xx

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Downton Abbey Series One, Episode Seven

July and August 1914. Tensions abound following the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The family returns from London after Sybil’s debutante ball, with the exception of Mary, who is staying with her aunt and has yet to give Matthew his answer. When, to everyone’s great surprise, Cora discovers that she is pregnant after eighteen years, Mary’s aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick, advises her to reconsider marrying Matthew, since his situation would change completely if the baby turns out to be a boy. Mary learns from Evelyn Napier that it was Edith and not he who originated the rumours about her and Pamuk. While in London, Anna has discovered the details of Bates’ crime: while he was a soldier he stole the regimental silver. However, Carson and the Earl realise that Bates is keeping something back. After Mrs. Patmore’s condition worsens, Lord Grantham sends her to London to have cataract surgery.
 Anna goes with her and discovers from Bates' mother that he took the blame for his wife, as he believed that he had ruined her life, although his mother does not agree with him. Mrs. Patmore is temporarily replaced by Mrs. Crawley’s cook, Mrs. Bird, whose cooking she fears will be preferred to her own. Mrs. Patmore accordingly asks Daisy to spoil the family’s meals, but her actions are discovered. Mrs. Bird sympathises with Daisy's loyalty, and upon Mrs. Patmore’s recovery and return, Mrs Bird manages to win her over. Matthew is angered by Mary’s hesitancy following Cora’s pregnancy, declaring that her decision should purely depend on whether she loves him or not. Anticipating the war, Thomas finds a non-combatant role in the Army Medical Corps with the help of Dr Clarkson.

When Molesley finds Thomas trying to steal from Carson’s wallet, the Earl tells Carson to wait until after the upcoming charity garden party to act on it. Thomas opportunely hands in his resignation to join the Corps. Mary confronts Edith about revealing her secret and implies that she will exact revenge. Learning that Sir Anthony Strallan promises to propose to Edith at the garden party, Mary manipulates him into thinking Edith finds him old and boring, so he leaves in haste without explanation. O'Brien is angry when she mistakenly believes that Cora is going to replace her, and takes advantage of an opportunity to punish the Countess by leaving soap below her bath. She regrets it immediately but isn't able to warn Cora in time, who slips and miscarries. There is further heartache when they find out the baby would have been a boy. O’Brien is extremely upset but Thomas is callous. He ridicules William for mourning his mother so deeply, leading to a fight between the two.


A telephone is installed in the house, and Sybil manages to get Gwen an interview as secretary for the phone company. When Branson conveys the good news that Gwen has secured the post, his obvious friendliness with Sybil leads Mrs. Hughes to warn him against getting too close to her. Molesley’s interest in Anna leads Bates to imply that he returns her affections.

 Mary is now prepared to marry Matthew and is heartbroken when he tells her he cannot be sure of her motives and intends to leave Downton. In the final scene, during the garden party Lord Grantham receives a telegram and announces to all that the United Kingdom is at war with Germany, marking the beginning of World War I.


A very emotional episode! xx

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Downton Abbey Series One, Episode Six

May 1914. Lady Sybil's interest in politics and women's rights is kindled by the upcoming by-election and is the cause of major disagreement between her and Lord Grantham. Meanwhile, presumably as a result of Lady Edith's letter, rumours about Lady Mary and the "handsome Turk" intensify, reaching the ears of Carson and the Dowager herself. Violet confronts Cora, who is forced to tell her the truth, leaving Violet almost as shocked by her behaviour as Mary's. Edith finds an admirer in Sir Anthony Strallan, after he is impressed by her thoughtfulness and genuine interest in him. Miss O'Brien and Thomas continue to plot against Bates, trying to frame him for the theft of a wine bottle – which in fact Thomas stole as witnessed by Bates. Thomas persuades Daisy to testify against Bates, but her conscience leads her to retract her statement. However, Bates surprises Carson, Mrs Hughes and Anna by revealing that he was once a drunkard and has been in prison for theft; Carson is unwilling to let him go, realising that there is more to his story. Sybil makes Branson take her to Ripon under false pretenses to attend the by-election count. She is injured during a brawl when the count gets out of hand, but is rescued by Matthew as he is returning from work. Lord Grantham blames Branson but Sybil defends him. Later that night Mary and Matthew talk and reminisce, leading to them confessing their love for each other. Lord and Lady Grantham are delighted to learn that Matthew asked Mary to marry him, but to Cora's chagrin, Mary feels she cannot accept his proposal without telling him her scandalous secret. The Dowager apologises for her earlier harsh treatment of Cora, and they decide that if the match between Mary and Matthew does not come off, they will marry her off to some "Italian who is not too picky" come November.




Enjoy everyone! xx


Friday, 25 January 2013

Downton Abbey Series One, Episode Five


Late July 1913. Bates discovers that Thomas is stealing wine from the cellar. Worried that he will be reported, Thomas attempts to frame Bates for stealing one of Lord Grantham's antique snuffboxes, but his plans are thwarted. Anna makes her feelings known to Mr. Bates, but he says they can't be together. Meanwhile, rumours are beginning to circulate about Lady Mary and the "handsome Turk". Daisy is finding it increasingly difficult to keep quiet about what she has seen, and after some cajoling from Miss O'Brien, she tells her story to Lady Edith, who reveals the truth to the Turkish ambassador. At the annual flower show, Isobel questions Violet's history of winning every year, and instead supports Molesley's father's arrangements, much to Violet's dismay.




This is one of my favourite episodes! xx


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Downton Abbey Series One, Episode Four

May 1913. A travelling fair arrives in the neighbouring village. Anna gets sick. Mrs. Hughes (the housekeeper) is reunited with a former suitor, who proposes to her again. Thomas asks Daisy to accompany him to the fair simply to annoy William, who is fond of her. Molesley suffers from an allergic reaction, prompting much debate between Violet and Isobel. Carson fears there is a thief at Downton. Lady Sybil continues her experimentation with feminism with the aid and inspiration of the new, politically minded Irish chauffeur, Branson.




I love the looks between Mary and Matthew. They are lovely together! xx