JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND (J)


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

J. FILM AND TV LOCATIONS – “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”

(i) The Picturesque

A dictionary definition of “picturesque” is, “like or fit to be the subject of a striking picture” (Ref A), and the word dates back as far as 1703, being derived from the Italian, “pintorisco”, in the manner of a painter. (Ref B) The entire concept of “picturesque” views, places or residences became increasingly popular in the mid-eighteenth century. Maggie Lane, in her book (Ref C) discusses the idea of the “picturesque” at some length, with regard to possible influences on the life of Jane Austen and her works.


She draws attention to the artist William Sawrey Gilpin, (1724-1804) who was also what we would now call a, “travel writer.” He wrote two travel books, “Observations on the English Lakes Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty“, 1786, and “Observations on the Western Parts of England Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty“, 1798. Gilpin, as a skilled professional artist, set out precise rules for the production of this effect of picturesque beauty. His full name is used to distinguish him from his uncle, the Rev William Gilpin, (2)who is claimed (Ref D) to be the originator of the concept of “picturesque”, although the idea had been current since the seventeenth century. (Ref B) Perhaps one of the greatest exponents of the picturesque was JMW Turner (3).

Maggie Lane considers that Jane Austen was very familiar with Gilpin’s works, and with reference to Warwick Castle and Kenilworth Castle, she “was now able to visit two of these places for herself, and see with her own eyes what she had long been familiar with, from Gilpin’s description.” (Ref C)

The concept of the “picturesque” has obviously survived intact to the present day, or how else can we explain the relentlessly search by TV and film companies for locations? Instead of settling on one suitable grand house, or pretty village, it seems necessary to scour Britain for multiple locations, which must surely add to the costs of production.

(ii) “Pride and Prejudice” 1940 film

This is probably Jane Austen’s best-known novel, and has been made into at least two successful films (1940, 2008) and also two TV series (1967, 1995). The 1940 film starred Laurence Olivier (5) as Mr Darcy, and Greer Garson (4) as the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, but her dress was rather too low-cut for a respectable young woman in the Regency period.


Briefly, the novel charts the developing relationship between the intelligent Elizabeth, eldest and favourite daughter of the bookish Mr Bennet, a country gentleman of modest means, and Mr Darcy, a wealthy Derbyshire landowner. The plot is beset by confusion and misunderstandings created by the pride and prejudice of the novel’s title, before the two young people eventually marry.

(iii) 150th Anniversary TV

A 1967 BBC TV series “marked the 150th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen. It was directed by Joan Craft and starred Celia Bannerman and Lewis Fiander as the protagonists, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.” (Ref F) No information on locations was given in this brief article.


(iv) The 1995 TV Version

This production was an altogether more lavish affair, and starred Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and the American actress Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. The production caused something of a sensation in the national press, with its handling of the plot in more overtly sexual ways, especially the scene of Colin firth in shirt and breeches emerging from a swim in the lake. Jennifer Ehle had already achieved some notoriety with British TV audiences for her nude scenes in “The Camomile Lawn”.


So much information is provided on locations that it has been set out in the table below.

Table 1: Locations for filming 1995 TV series of “Pride and Prejudice”

NOVEL HOUSEHOLD

RELEVANCE

ACTUAL LOCATION

Meryton village, Hertfordshire Home village of the Bennet family Lacock, Wiltshire (8)
Longbourne, Hertfordshire Mr Bennet’s estate and family home Luckington Court, Wiltshire
Pemberley, exterior Mr Darcy’s mansion Lyme Hall, Cheshire (9)
Pemberley, interior Mr Darcy’s mansion Sudbury Hall, Sudbury, Derbyshire.
Rosings Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s estate Belton House in Grantham, Lincolnshire
Hunsford parsonage Mr Collins’s modest home Old Rectory, Teigh, Rutland
Netherfield, interior and exterior Mr Bingley’s estate Edgcote House, Northamptonshire
Netherfield ballroom Mr Bingley’s estate Brocket Hall, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
London streets Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick, Warwickshire.
Ramsgate Wickham’s and Georgiana’s planned elopement Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.
Wickham’s wedding St Paul’s church, Deptford, London

Given the large number of locations in the table, only two illustrations are shown.



(v) The
2005 Film Version

This production starred Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy. “It was marketed to a younger, mainstream audience; promotional items noted that it came from the producers of 2001’s romantic comedy Bridget Jones’s Diary before acknowledging its provenance as an Austen novel.” (Ref H). It showed “Longbourne” the Bennet family home, as a working farm, but took “realism” too far with pigs and geese surrounding the actors as soon as they emerged from the house door. It seems hardly likely that the bookish and fastidious Mr Bennet would have tolerated this for a minute.


However, Mr Bennet, in this production, played by Donald Sutherland, is required permanently to sport a week’s growth of stubble on his face. He looks nothing like a cultivated, landed, country gentleman, and more like a vagrant from the streets, dragged in quickly to play the part.

It comes as no surprise that Jane Austen enthusiasts found this production deeply unsatisfactory. In trying to be “modern” and attract a younger audience, the director has created something far removed from the spirit and atmosphere of the original novel. It shows a common failing of new modern dramas, by projecting twenty-first century social attitudes on to the societies of the past.

People behaved differently then, and to pretend otherwise is a crime against truth. It is no use to claim that “this is not a documentary”. It is like setting a play in the Germany of the late 1930s, and depicting the Hitler and Goebbels happily attending a Jewish bar-mitzvah birthday as honoured and welcome guests.

The director, Joe Wright, was seen as a surprising choice, as he had mainly worked in TV dramas involving social realism. He had never read the novel, and later was deeply influenced by seeing the 1940 black and white film version with a 40 year old Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy and the 36 year old Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet. He was correct in pointing out that, in the novel, the protagonists were all young people in their teens or early twenties. Apparently, Wright made a particular effort not to “be too reverential to the dialogue in the novel. I don’t believe people spoke like that then; it’s not natural.” (Ref Y)


This quote encapsulates the problem with the director. He doesn’t believe people spoke like that then, because it doesn’t fit into the mindset of a working-class socialist from the twenty-first century. It is “not natural” to people who live in a society where deference and courtesy are largely unknown, and where accurate grammar and diction have been regarded as outmoded for decades. Nevertheless, things were quite different 200 years ago, among the well-to-do landed gentry. People really did “speak like that” in real life, as well as in Austen’s novels, otherwise there would have been adverse contemporary criticism from her readers.

Even the most cursory reading of the novel would reveal that it concerns the hunt for wealthy husbands by young women of limited means. To secure a satisfactory husband it was necessary to show “refinement” and “good breeding” to use the terms of those days. For the middle and upper classes, these qualities were marked out by good carriage, clear, grammatical speech and an educated accent. It does not matter whether we, today, regard these things as ridiculous or irrelevant, the point is that they mattered to people in those days, and to ignore them is to lose historical truth. Clearly, Joe Wright was a totally unsuitable director for a subject like this, and should have stuck to the gritty social realism of his own period.

Table 2: Locations for filming the 2005 Film Version of “Pride and Prejudice”

NOVEL HOUSEHOLD

RELEVANCE

ACTUAL LOCATION

Meryton village, Hertfordshire Home village of the Bennet family Stamford, Lincolnshire
Longbourne, Hertfordshire Mr Bennet’s estate and family home Groombridge Place, Sussex
Pemberley, exterior Mr Darcy’s mansion Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Pemberley, interior Mr Darcy’s mansion Wilton House, Wiltshire.
Rosings Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s estate Burghley House, Cambridgeshire
Netherfield, interior and exterior Mr Bingley’s estate Basildon Park, Berkshire

Readers may note that “scouring the country” for suitable locations, the 2005 film production team’s choices in Table 2, were totally different from those of the 1995 TV team shown in Table 1.



Despite all the rigorous research for locations, I think the film and TV production companies missed an important site for the wealthy Mr Darcy’s estate in Derbyshire, known as “Pemberley”. This ideal spot is called Kedlestone Hall. It has several advantages, principally that it is actually in the county of Derbyshire, and the wild Pennine hills are clearly visible on the horizon. (16) It is owned by the National Trust and is therefore open to the public at certain times. Thirdly it is only a few miles from the county town of Derby with all its facilities, and fourthly it is highly accessible, being just off Junctions 24 and 25 of the M1 motorway.


In the novel, Elizabeth Bennet accompanies a tour into Derbyshire, which includes a visit to Mr Darcy’s “Pemberley”.


The Classical frontage (17) of six enormous Corinthian columns, and sets of balustrade stairs ascending to the front entrance is mightily impressive, but within, the Marble Hall (18) overwhelms, with its twenty columns of Derbyshire marble, each 25 feet (7.6 m) high.


Even in the eighteenth century, the house was open to visits from the gentry, just as was Mr Darcy’s “Pemberley”. They were met in the Marble Hall by Mrs Garnett (19), the Housekeeper, from 1766 to 1809, who took them on a conducted tour of parts of the great house. It was from just such a housekeeper that Elizabeth Bennet learned a dispassionate account on the real character of Mr Darcy, ultimately paving the way for her marriage to him.

SERIES TO BE CONTINUED

REFERENCES

A. The Concise Oxford Dictionary, OUP

B. “Picturesque” (Wikipedia article)

C. “Jane Austen’s England”, by Maggie Lane, Robert Hale Ltd, 1986

D. “William Sawrey Gilpin” (Wikipedia article)

E. “Pride and Prejudice (1940 film)” (Wikipedia article)

F. “Pride and Prejudice (1967 TV series)” (Wikipedia article)

G. “Pride and Prejudice (1995 TV series)” (Wikipedia article)

H. “Pride and Prejudice (2005 film)” (Wikipedia article

I. “Treasures of Britain” edited John Julius Norwich, AA/NT/EH. 2002

J. “Kedlestone Hall”, the National Trust, 1999

ILLUSTRATIONS

1. The Picturesque: Blaise Castle House, Henbury, Gloucestershire, by Samuel Jackson, 1825 (Ref A)

2. Rev William Gilpin (Ref B)

3. “Tintern Abbey” by JMW Turner (Ref B)

4. Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennett (Ref E)

5. Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy (Ref E)

6. Celia Bannerman and Lewis Fiander, as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy (Google image)

7. Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy (Google image)

8. Lacock, Wiltshire as “Meryton” village, Hertfordshire (Ref G)

9. Lyme Hall, Cheshire, as “Pemberley”, Derbyshire (Ref G)

10. Locations for 1995 TV series of “Pride and Prejudice” (Author)

11. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy (Google image)

12. The Bennet girls at home in “Meryton” (Ref H)

13. Groombridge Place, Sussex as the Bennet’s family home of “Longbourne” (Ref I)

14. Burghley House as “Rosings”, the grand home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Ref I)

15. Locations for 2005 film version of “Pride and Prejudice” (Author)

16. The Pennine hills seen from the parkland of Kedlestone Hall, Derbyshire (Author)

17. The Classical front of Kedlestone Hall (Author)

18. The Marble Hall, Kedlestone (Ref J)

19. Mrs Garnett, Housekeeper of Kedlestone Hall, 1766 to 1809 (Ref J)

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)