JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND (I)


This is the ninth illustrated essay, in a series of twelve, describing some of the houses and places associated with Jane Austen, although it is not a comprehensive gazetteer.

I. FILM AND TV LOCATIONS – “SENSE AND SENSIBILITY”

(i) Dramatic Productions

Jane Austen’s novels have proved to be a rich mine of plots and characters, to be exploited by the film and television industry, across the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first century, as Table 1 illustrates. One of the perennial problems for directors, and producers, is where to shoot the location scenes, if the end result is not to consist purely of acting within studio sets alone. Location work has gradually become easier to achieve, with scientific advances in television technology and cinematography.

Table 1: Film and television productions of Jane Austen’s major novels

MAJOR NOVELS

FILM

TELEVISION

Sense and Sensibility (1811) 1995 (director, Ang Lee) 2008 mini-series (Morahan/Wakefield)
Pride and Prejudice (1813) 1940 (Garson/Olivier), 2005 (Knightly/Macfadyen) 1967 (Bannerman / Fiander), 1995 (Ehle/Firth)
Mansfield Park (1814) 1995 (Frances O’ Connor) 1983 (Sylvestra le Touzel), 2007 (Billy Piper)
Emma (1815) 1996 (Paltrow), 1972 (Godwin), 1996 (Beckinsale), 2009 (Garai)
Northanger Abbey (1818) 1986 (Schlesinger), 2007 (Jones)
Persuasion (1818) 1995 (Root/Hinds), 2007 (Hawkins/Jones) 1960 (Slater/Daneman), 1971 (Firbank/Marshall)

Fortunately, all of the private houses in Jane Austen’s novels are imaginary, though often fully described, so that almost any suitable grand house can be used for location filming. However, she bases some of the action in real towns like Bath, Southampton, Portsmouth or Lyme Regis. Across the passage of two hundred years, these towns have changed, almost, but not quite, beyond recognition.

(i) The Regency period

With a very tight frame, a modern picture of the medieval gates of Southampton, the sea wall of Lyme, or the Royal Crescent of Bath (1), can just about stand for their Regency selves, provided the inconvenient modern signs and street furniture are moved or hidden. As the reader can judge, the lawns in front of Number One, Royal Crescent, Bath, (1) can easily be populated by actors, with the ladies in filmy, fluttering Regency dresses, and the men in blue coats and white buckskin breeches. (2)


The Regency period, is so-called because it was during the reign of King George III (3), when his eldest son, George, Prince of Wales (4), acted as Regent, or “temporary monarch”. This was due to a period of intermittent and temporary bouts of madness in George III. Due to his incapacity to perform his constitutional duties, like formally signing legislation, or opening Parliament, the Regent took over this role. It lasted from 1811 to the death of George III in 1820.


This was a time of momentous political events, as the dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte was rising, from artillery officer to general, and from First Consul to Emperor, with supreme power over France. In the process, Napoleon conquered many of the countries of Europe, and as a result of invasion by the French, many of their citizens were killed or reduced to beggary.

Britain’s role in the conflict was twofold. Firstly, in the Iberian Peninsula, Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, was using British forces to help the Spanish and Portuguese peoples drive the French troops from their lands. Secondly, the Royal Navy was enforcing a blockade of French ports, to weaken the economic power of France, and so help the nations in the struggle against France, and its dictator, Napoleon.


In 1805, Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar (5), on the south-east coast of Spain, achieving command of the sea, for the rest of the war. In the context of this essay on Jane Austen, two of her brothers, Francis and Charles, were officers in the Royal Navy, and at sea, during this time, both rising eventually to become Admirals.

(iii) The First Published Novel “Sense and Sensibility” 1811

This novel has received far less interest from the media than several of the others, but it was adapted as a screenplay, for a 1995 British/American production, by Lindsay Doran, directed by Ang Lee, a Chinese director, making his first film in the west. Emma Thompson, who is best known as an actress, is also an English literature graduate from Cambridge University, and reputedly spent five years working on the screenplay. She starred in the film (6) as Elinor Dashwood, and Kate Winslet played her younger sister, Marianne (Ref C)


In the novel, the original home of the Dashwood family is the fine mansion of “Norland Park”, but on the death of the master, Henry Dashwood, it passes to the son of his first wife. His second wife and widow, with her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, have to move out to the humbler “Barton Cottage” in Devonshire. They are welcomed into local Devon society, and become friendly with Mrs Jennings, who also owns a town house in London. At the close of the novel, Edward Ferrars and Marianne Dashwood marry.


(iv) The 1995 film version

A variety of locations were used for filming. Saltram House in Devon, (7) served as “Norland Park”, and “Barton Cottage” was a cottage, on the nearby Flete House estate. Mompesson House (8) was used as the London town house of Mrs Jennings, although it is actually in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The wedding scenes were also shot in the Devon, at the village church (9) of Berry Pomeroy.


“A number of other National Trust estates and stately homes across England were used. Trafalgar House and Wilton House in Wiltshire stood in for the grounds of “Barton Park”, and the London Ballroom respectively. Sixteenth-century Montacute House in South Somerset was the setting for the Palmer estate of “Cleveland House”.
Further scenes were shot at Compton Castle in Devon (Mr Willoughby’s estate)
and at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, in London.” (Ref C)


(v) The 2008 TV version

In 2008 a TV miniseries was released, starring Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood and Charity Wakefield as her sister, Marianne. Wrotham Park, (pronounced root um) in Hertfordshire, served as the exterior for the original Dashwood home of “Norland Park”, but the interiors were shot in Ham House in Richmond, near London. Blackpool Mill, a fifteenth-century cottage in north Devon, was turned into Barton Cottage, the home of the Dashwood girls, although it was subject to a great deal of temporary alteration, including adding a fake chimney-stack. (Ref D)



The later and more popular novels, from the point of view of TV and film directors, proved equally challenging when selecting suitable locations around Britain.

SERIES TO BE CONTINUED

REFERENCES

A. “Regency” Wikipedia article

B. “The House of Hanover”, National Portrait Gallery, HMSO, 1968

C. “Sense and Sensibility-the film” Wikipedia article

D. “Sense and Sensibility-miniseries” Wikipedia article

ILLUSTRATIONS

1. Number One, Royal Crescent, Bath (Google images)

2. Ladies and gentleman in Regency dress, from a contemporary (1811) treatise on country dancing (Ref A)

3. King George III, modelled from life, in wax, by Madame Tussaud (Tussaud Museum)

4. The Prince Regent in 1815, a portrait by Thomas Lawrence (Ref B)

5. The Battle of Trafalgar, in an artist’s impression (Google images)

6. Film poster, 1995 Kate Winslet, top and Emma Thompson (Ref C)

7. Saltram House in Devon, as “Norland Park” (Ref C)

8. Mompesson House as the London town house of Mrs Jennings (Google images)

9. The village church of Berry Pomeroy, Devon (Google images)

10. Wrotham Park, Hertfordshire, as “Norland Park” Wikipedia

11. Locations in and around London (Author)

12. Locations in the south and west of England (Author)

SERIES SUMMARY

CODE

MAIN SUBJECT

OTHER THEMES

A Hampshire Childhood Introduction-Reminders of the Past
B Kent Country Houses “Improvements”, and Garden Design
C City Elegance History of Bath, Neo-Classical Architecture
D Coastal Scenes Sea Drinking and Sea Bathing
E The Bristol Avon
F The Warwickshire Avon and the Cotswolds Adlestrop
G Return to Hampshire Portsmouth Point
H Winchester Days Medicine in the Early Nineteenth Century
I Locations “Sense and Sensibility” The Regency Period
J Locations –”Pride and Prejudice” The Picturesque
K Locations – “Mansfield Park” and “Emma” The Ha-Ha Boundary, “Lovers’ Vows” play
L Locations-“Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion” The Gothic Novel, Irish History
This entry was posted in Alan Mason, Jane Austen's England. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment (email & website optional)