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The Jane Austen Society is Hooping it up for the Bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice

March 5, 2013

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I spend a surprising amount of time in meetings in coffee shops. And I’m not the only one. I was in a Starbucks in Toronto this morning and it was completely crowded. Some of them were students between lectures, but for the rest of them I have no idea why they were there on a Tuesday morning. We live in a wonderful world if large segments of people can sit around in coffee shops for long stretches of time don’t you think? Of course some of them were probably using the place as office space, but still, there is a lot of sitting around and drinking coffee going on.
As I was picking up my tea (I can never remember to say Venti instead of large) I noticed a poster on the wall about a Jane Austen Festival. A Jane Austen Festival! Visions of Brigid Jones and her diary came flooding back. Perhaps the next best thing for a reluctant bachelor after attending numerous showings of chick flicks would be to spend a weekend in Toronto in regency attire waiting to be mistaken for Mr. Darcy by some impressionable young woman lost in Ms. Austen’s confections.
Well fear not lonely Mr. Darcy’s your time has come! On the weekend of April 19-21 the recently formed Jane Austin Society ( will be holdinging a Jane Austen weekend in Toronto, and Regency attire is encouraged. Will a horde of cosplay enthusiasts from Harajuku show up to drive lovers of both anime and Jane Austen absolutely crazy?
And it’s not just the Toronto folks who should rejoice. Porter Airlines is assisting the Jane Austin deprived of Eastern North America with a seat sale, according to the Jane Austen Society website.
Of course prospective Mr. Darcy’s are more likely to sweep a Jane Austin heroine of her feet if they know how to dance regency style. Unfortunately the special introductory lessons was on February 18. Perhaps the Jane Austen society will offer further lessons if there is enough demand.
I’m a bit beyond my Mr. Darcy prime, but I’m wondering if I should attend as a portly vicar or something, just in case the girls from Harajuku show up and I can  watch the mashup of cultures.
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Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice? Yes There is a Connection

February 10, 2013

It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a pretty good overlap amongst fans of Jane Austen’s  Pride and Prejudice and fans of Downton Abbey.

So what’s a Downton Abbey fan to do when one of here favorite characters (Matthew Crawley, played by Dan Stevens)


is killed off? Yes he does do a good job of looking dead. Perhaps he’d make a good zombie as well.


Well it would be a shame to waste all that heart-throbbiness, so what’s an actor and the costume drama industry to do?

Well, there is always the Jane Austen franchise to consider.

Here’s Colin Firth setting hearts a flutter playing the role of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice in 1995.


Perhaps Pride and Prejudice has been done to death in recent times? But wait, it turns out that other talented authors have sought to carry on where Jane Austen left off. P.D James (below) wrote a sequel to Pride and Prejudice in 2011 (, entitled “Death Comes to Pemberley”.


Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times review of the book.

“The story is set in 1803, six years after “Pride and Prejudice” was finished (though it wasn’t published until 1813) and presumably when the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy took place. They have two young sons now, and the arrival of a third child is shortly to be announced. But their tranquillity is interrupted one wet and windy evening when an unexpected carriage comes rocketing up the drive.

Inside is Elizabeth’s airhead sister Lydia, the one who eloped with the charming but unreliable George Wickham, screaming that her husband is dead. Actually he isn’t, though many, including Darcy, for whom Wickham is a constant source of embarrassment and irritation, might wish he were. A search party discovers Wickham in the woods, drunk and bloodstained, beside the body of his best friend, Captain Denny, and he babbles what sounds like a confession. But is Wickham, although a deadbeat and a serial seducer of young women, really a murderer? Even Darcy can’t quite believe that of him.”

And here’s the potentially juicy news. Poor dead Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) from Downton Abbey may be reappearing as Darcy in the P.D. James riff on Jane Austen (
and there may even be parallels with Downton Abbey itself:

“Pemberley, which the novel suggests is like any great estate in having a continuing life, regardless of who happens to hold the title, turns out to be a burden more than the blessing it first appears to Elizabeth (and even more so to her grasping mother). With a great fortune, it turns out, comes great responsibility.”

So fear not, life taketh away, but life also giveth. Sure, go ahead and keep watching the Dan Stevens-free Downton Abbey with a clear conscience, for Mr. Stevens will no doubt soon be popping up in another juicy role and maybe even in another English estate.
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Pride and Prejudice Turns 200 This Year

February 9, 2013

Jane Austen’s novel was first published in 1813. What a great title for a novel! It just trips off the tongue. Two hundred years later and it is still relevant and gripping for modern readers. The issues of  “manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage” ( are just as relevant today as they were in the early Nineteenth Century. The book has sold 20 million copies worldwide so far and has been adapted many times. It was adapted for the stage in 1936 and it was the subject of movies in 1940 and in 2005. The BBC had not one but two TV series based on the novel, the first in 1980 and the second in 1995.




There has even been a Bollywood version of the novel called Bride and Prejudice (
“Set in Amritsar, the story follows Lalita Bakshi, a young woman living with her doting father and helping him run the family farming enterprise; her mother, who is determined to marry off her daughters to respectable and wealthy men; and her three sisters, Jaya, Maya, and Lakhi. At a friend’s wedding, Lalita meets Will Darcy, a handsome and wealthy American working in the family hotel business, who has arrived in Amritsar with his long-time friend, the barrister Balraj, and Balraj’s sister Kiran.”
Sacrilege? I don’t think so. The themes of the book transcend the bounds of time and culture and speak to the endless conundrum of how the two genders manage to live together successfully.
If you are planning on reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, the following figure might be useful to refer to (a bit like the Map of Middle Earth when reading Lord of the Rings).
Here’s the start of the plot summary on the Wikipedia page, in case it whets your appetite to read the book (again). I won’t spoil it by including the whole summary, but perhaps this will give you an idea of where things are heading…
“The novel centers on the Bennet family, consisting of the bookish Mr Bennet, his wife, a woman somewhat lacking in social graces and primarily concerned with her family’s fortunes, and their five daughters. The youngest, Lydia, most takes after Mrs Bennet; the eldest, Jane, is kind-hearted and proper; and the central character, Elizabeth Bennet, is the second-eldest and most takes after her father, sharing his keen wit and occasionally sarcastic outlook.

The narrative opens with Mr Bingley’s, a wealthy, charismatic and social young bachelor, moving into Netherfield Park in the neighbourhood of the Bennet family. Mr Bingley is soon well received, while his friend Mr Darcy makes a less favorable first impression by appearing proud and condescending at a ball that they attend (he detests dancing and is not much for light conversation). Mr Bingley singles out Jane for particular attention, and it soon becomes apparent that they have formed an attachment to each other, though Jane does not alter her conduct for him, confessing her great happiness only to Lizzie. By contrast, Darcy slights Elizabeth, who overhears and jokes about it despite feeling a budding resentment.

On paying a visit to Mr Bingley’s sister, Caroline, Jane is caught in a heavy downpour, catches cold, and is forced to stay at Netherfield for several days. Elizabeth arrives to nurse her sister and is thrown into frequent company with Mr Darcy, who begins to act marginally less coldly towards her.”
These days of course, similar romantic entanglements and budding relationships have to be managed alongside the vicissitudes of managing studies, career, family, transport, housing and any number of other things that perhaps the daughters of English country gentlemen didn’t have to worry about 200 years ago.

And if you find the original version of Pride and Prejudice a bit quaint, maybe you are ready for the zombie version!
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tells the story of a zombie infestation in Meryton, with Elizabeth Bennet in this version not only dealing with  haughty suitors and clergymen but also with zombies! Of course, it all makes perfect sense…


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