Sunday, March 30, 2008

An Austentacious Weekend at Pemberly Pines

Salutations Dear Friends,

After a weekend at Pemberly (Pines), and a media stimulus of Austen-inspired tales, I had no better choice for afternoon tea than my dear, and sadly, depleting supply, of Earl Grey tea from the celebrated Pump Room in Bath. As many Austenphiles know, the Pump Room was quite the social gathering place in Jane's time and it was the scene of much spirited conversation and activity in some of her novels. Although, from most accounts, Jane was not entirely happy during her stay in Bath, we found it to be a most charming place to visit when we traveled to England almost two years ago.

And, although, this particular tea from the Pump Room is not my favorite Earl Grey blend, it does - like Calgon - "take me away" to this wonderful city of Bath and a "reconnexion" with one of my favorite authors. I am such a fan of Jane's, that one the most famous estates of her books, "Pemberley" (impressive home of Mr. Darcy) has become the namesake of our most humble up- north cottage. We've "Americanized" the name a bit, by dropping the last "e"and "northernized" it by adding "Pines". We think Jane would be amused at the irony, since Mr. Darcy's estate was most formidable in size and, in most conservative measurement, Pemberly Pines is but barely 1,200 square feet.

However, we believe we pay appropriate homage to the spirit of Darcy's Pemberely from Elizabeth Bennet's account of her first visit to the estate. She states that "she had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste." With respect to Mr. Darcy's expected condescension due his superior rank and pride, we believe we have achieved the same with Pemberly Pines.

And, so, in our sojourn to northern Michigan this weekend, my husband downloaded a books-on-tape version of "Pride and Prejudice" to, of all things, our dashboard-mounted GPS! At a guaranteed 12 hours-plus of listening pleasure, we were able to take in all of Part One (of Two) in one round-trip excursion. We also found "Becoming Jane" as a pay-per-view choice this weekend and spent another two hours in the Regency Period. It was, if you will forgive my impertinence, as though we were at Steventon itself for a reunion with the entire Austen clan.

There are consequences to such intense Austen-immersion, however. My husband will have to suffer my addresses to him as either "Mr. Gulley" or "Squire Gulley" for the next fortnight. I will find much felicity in our household activity and greet all invitations with undying alacrity; however, if the occasion requires it, I may become appropriately vexed as well.

To all Austen fans: the newly initiated due to Keira Knightley's Miss Bennet and Anne Hathaway's Jane Austen or the more "mature" of us admirers who became loyalists in 1995, after Colin Firth's quintessential Mr. Darcy, (and who should have read the book in its entirety for high school English class), I take such liberty as to say Jane would have been most flattered by all the attention and all the wonderful entertainment her life and novels had provided generations of followers. But, alas, it is 2008 and I am back at home, away from my fellow regents and my thoughts of balls and excursions to country estates must be laid to rest momentarily. Other chores, of a less-exciting nature, must be attended to. Another cup of Pump Room tea and it's off to the rest of the days diversions. . . until next week.

Yours, most respectfully, in tea and friendship, etc.

Mrs. Gulley


Anonymous said...

You should be aware, young lady, that Pemberly fanatics have been around for some period!

I will admit that recent versions of Pride and Prejudice are truer to the story and are historically accurate in costume and settings. I believe, however, that the tone of the novel was captured most effectively in the 1940 Laurence Olivier / Greer Garson film version. Admittedly a ham-fest on an extreme level (save for Edmond Gwenn whose low-key Mr. Bennett was the sympathetic portal for the viewer), this version really works (there are more obscure versions, apparently, including a 1952 TV mini-series starring Hammer horror film star Peter Cushing as Mr. Darcy!) The caricatures of Mr. Collins and Lady Katherine DeBurgh (Melville Cooper and Edna May Oliver, respectively) are superb, as the actors understood their roles as foils – more dramatic interpretations of those characters in later versions lack the contrast that provides the appropriate comedic touch. For example, the courtship of the Bennett girls by Collins is more embarrassing (and therefore funnier) when the character is played less realistically (and therefore with less empathy). Olivier’s Darcy is unmatched, as his physicality was perfectly synchronized with his lines. As his pride deteriorates, he is less posed and more natural. I am not dissing Colin Firth or the other Darcy’s (except perhaps Cushing, who may have eaten Mr. Collins in his version), I am just saying that the realistic touch is too heavy-handed for this sublime light comedy of manners. Plus, I think you get Kroger Bucks for watching the 1940 version.

Signed, Lang Jr.

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