Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Red and pink and gold and blue,
Purple and cream and peach;
Such abandoned careless glory--
Does my heart still beat?

March 23, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tea and Thanksgiving

After reading THIS lovely post of Lanier's, I found myself inspired to take a moment for tea today. I'm glad I did. I have tea almost every morning--it is my pick me up since I hate coffee--but there is something about tea time which is very special. I am a college student living in a dorm and I don't have a tea pot or nice china, but I did what I could. Rather than hurrying through my tea I savored it. Today I had Celestial Seasonings' Lemon Zinger, a tea I like better without sugar than with. I ate a bit of left-over pad thai and a oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with it. A strange combination, but it worked somehow or other.

And soon it will be Thanksgiving. I like Thanksgiving not so much for the turkey and the cranberry sauce but because I need to be reminded to thank God daily for what he has given me. I am a worry-wort by nature and I tend to get caught up in the troubles of the day and forget about the good things. It is surprising sometimes, when you stop to think, how many things there are to be thankful for in any given day. Even those that may seem like a burden--the rain for example. I actually enjoy rain but sometimes I allow myself to get caught up in a complaining spirit and grouse bitterly about it. But when I stop to think I can see that I really do enjoy it.

Finally, one of my favorite poems, which somehow seems Thanksgiving-y at the moment.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

~Gerald Manley Hopkins

St. Martin of Tours

St. Martin of Tours--Nov. 11/24

Many people know the story of St. Martin--the dashing young Roman officer who cut half of his cloak off for a beggar and then saw a vision of Christ. But do you know the whole story? The rest of St. Martin's life is widely unkown.

St. Martin was Roman, the son of a tribune in the Imperial Horse Guard. He became interested in Christianity at a young age and began attending church at age ten although he was not baptized. When he was fifteen he himself became a cavalry officer. He was stationed in France where the famous event with the beggar took place. After his vision he was baptized and two years later left the army. He became a disciple of St. Hilary of Poitiers in Tours. However, St. Hilary was exiled because he opposed Arianism and St. Martin returned to Italy. He too suffered at the hands of the Arians and left to become a hermit. When St. Hilary returned to France St. Martin rejoined him, eventually founding a monastery. He traveled throughout what was then called Gaul, preaching. Finally, in 371 A.D. he was consecrated bishop of Tours. He preferred to live in his monastery, Marmoutier, but he was a diligent father to the church in Tours. He died in 391.

Icon of St. Martin
Life of St. Martin

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Russian Teacakes

1 1/2 c margarine, softened
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/3 c flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 c nuts (chopped walnuts work best)
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix margarine, one cup powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, salt, and nuts until dough holds together.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Roll in powdered sugar while warm. Cool. Roll in powdered sugar again.

NaNo Excerpt

What could be more appropriate for a prose piece during the month of November? You will see a chapter of my novel in all

Chapter 7
Christopher Visits Again and Reveals His Secret, Also a Foggy Day and What Happened in it, Also a Visit From the Solicitor

Jeanne was washing the plates after dinner and singing along to the Verdi which was playing on the radio when she heard a knock on the kitchen door. She dried her hands and opened it. Christopher Sheldon stood there with a bunch of radishes in his hands. “I thought…I thought perhaps you would like these. I can’t possibly eat all of them and you were the only people I could think of. Old Timothy hates the things.” She smiled.
“Of course. Thank you so much. Won’t you come in?”
He hesitated and then nodded and came in.
“I was just washing up. Sit down, I’ll be done in a moment.” She turned the radio down as she walked past. She was horribly embarrassed at the thought that he had heard her singing but there was nothing she could do about it now.
“This is a very large kitchen,” he said.
“Yes. The whole house is very large for only two people and even larger for one. I don’t know how Aunt Jean did it all these years. She took wonderful care of the house considering she’s sixty and all by herself. Although she is remarkably strong except for being a little confused about time once in awhile. But she let the garden go all to seed. I’ve been working in it and it is starting to look presentable again.”
“It looked very lovely this morning. I’m sorry, this is strange, but I was under the impression that you are French.”
“Yes, half-French. And I was born and grew up there.”
“But you have no accent at all.”
“Well, Maman and Papa always spoke both languages to us. Maman used French and Papa English and so we learned both.”
“Which did they use when they spoke to each other? And who is we?”
“Oh, they used both. It usually depended on who was starting the conversation. And we are my brother Nicolas and I. Nicolas is in school in Paris, studying to be an architect. Maman was a teacher until she married Papa and now she takes care of us all. Papa is a greengrocer.”
Christopher looked at the book lying on the table. “Who’s been reading Christina Rossetti?”
“I have. It’s sad, the number of books I have never read.”
“Do you enjoy her?”
“Immensely. Not all of them of course, but there are so many that are very beautiful. And you?”
“Well, I suppose so, yes. There are times when she is very much a woman’s writer but there are times when she is very universal.”
“I suppose I can see that. There, I’m done. Would you like anything to eat or drink?”
“Oh no, I just had supper before I came. And I wouldn’t want to make more dishes for you to wash.” He smiled and she noticed the way the corner of his eyes crinkled up. It was in that moment that she realized that she was in a fair way to having an infatuation with him. She was not sure if this delighted or worried her. After all three meetings does not tell you overmuch about a person’s character.
Whatever either one of them might have said after that was forever left unsaid because both of them distinctly heard a bump in the next room. Christopher motioned to her to be quiet and very carefully picked up the kitchen poker. They tiptoed quietly to the door and saw a light underneath. Christopher gently turned the handle and the door swung to reveal Jean sitting in front of the big stone fireplace. She looked up at them and smiled. “Come in my dears. I have just been sitting here in front of the fire and dreaming and then I went to put another log on and tripped over the dogs. Have you made the acquaintance of the dogs yet? My father had them cast when he was quite a young man. He was very particular of them and we were never allowed to play with them. My dear Jeanne, I am afraid I have been very bad company and a worse hostess these past few days. There are times when I am afraid my mind wanders back into the past and the recent events sent me back there. I beg your pardon.” Jeanne bent over her and kissed her.
“Dear aunt, you needn’t worry.” She sat down on the chair next to her.
“Christopher is that you?” Jean asked.
“Yes. I brought radishes.”
“Oh good, we can have them in a salad with the lettuce. We may have to give you lettuce. It seems there is a good deal out there.”
“Mountains,” Jeanne groaned.
Jean sighed and stood up. “Well, I am off to bed. I am very tired and tomorrow I want to start cleaning the attic out a bit. It is quite ridiculous the way we have let things accumulate up there. I am afraid we Hargraves have always been thrifty and have never ever thrown anything that could possibly be used away.”
She walked out of the room; somehow a more dignified figure than she ever had been before. Christopher and Jeanne sat together in silence.
“I wonder why on earth whoever came in and wrecked the library did it. P.C. Andrews seemed to think that it was some random and senseless thing but it seemed so…thorough. And I would have thought that a village rascal would have left dirty messages scribbled somewhere. It’s almost as though they were looking for something. But what on earth could it have been?”
Christopher shook his head. “I don’t know. Has your aunt ever told you any stories about a treasure in the family or anything of that sort?”
“No. I know we were quite wealthy at one time but I don’t know when it was exactly or what happened to change that. As far as I know it was some quite normal thing like bankruptcy or having to bribe someone or blackmail or five years of bad crops in a row. Nothing that would lead to a hidden treasure.”
“Well, that rules that out then. Unless it’s something quite obvious that is hidden under all of our noses—something that didn’t have a particular value when it was first bought or made but now does.”
“But who would know to look for something like that?”
There was a long moment of awkward silence.
He sighed. “Rosamonde Delacroix. She’s an art collector specializing in obscure and valuable antiques. She also happens to be quite unscrupulous.”
“I knew there was something about her. But how do you know all this?”
“At one time I knew her quite well. In fact, we were engaged for a bit but when I found out about her I broke it off. If she was capable of doing anything to get an antique she was just as capable of doing anything to get whatever else she might want and I did not want to pay that price.”
“She is very beautiful,” Jeanne said quietly.
“Yes. And she has many good qualities. But I am afraid they are being swallowed up by her urge to have whatever she desires and her ruthlessness in getting it. She came to see me after she arrived here. She wanted to know all about your house and family. I told her that I knew absolutely nothing about you all. She didn’t believe me but she spent the better part of an hour trying to vamp me. Again.”
“But now you do know us,” Jeanne said in a tight voice. He stared at her.
“Jeanne! You don’t think that I would do something like that do you?”
“Not consciously or willingly, no. But you said yourself she is ruthless. And if she is ruthless then she could quite easily find a way to use you.” Jeanne rubbed her forehead as she spoke. She was very tired and felt more than ever that she was about to cry.
“I promise you on my honor that I am not trying to lay the ground for whatever unscrupulous ideas Rosamonde has in her head. And I also promise on my honor that I will not tell her anything about you at any time. She has absolutely nothing to blackmail me with besides the fact that I once wore yellow socks.”
“Really and truly? Yellow?”
“Yellow. Do you believe me?”
“Yes. I shouldn’t, but I have so few people to talk to or trust that I can’t rule out one of them. And I believe you will keep your promise.”
“I will.”
The clock on the mantelpiece chimed ten.
“Well,” he said, getting up, “it’s time for me to head along. If you ever need help you know you have only to call on me.”
“I know.”
“And I’m glad your aunt is feeling better.”
“I am too. Good night.”
“Good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow…”
She looked confused.
“Surely you know that! Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet.” She shook her head. “Ah, you’ve killed me! Romeo and Juliet is not, in my opinion, that wonderful, but you must read it because it’s Shakespeare. And Hamlet is incredible.”
“I will make a note of it. Good night Christopher.”
“Good night. Sleep well.”
Her thoughts as she climbed the many stairs to her attic lair were confused. On the one hand she implicitly trusted Christopher but on the other she was afraid of Rosamonde Delacroix and what she might do. And, looking into her heart of hearts, she had to admit that she was jealous of her as well, jealous that Christopher had once loved her, jealous of her power over him.
“Oh dear, I’m setting myself up for a fall I’m afraid,” she sighed. Her sheets were refreshingly cool as she slid under them and outside the stars winked coldly. She could see Orion. Something in his remoteness comforted her and she turned over and fell asleep.
The next morning was cool and grey. From the top of the Hill they could not se the village except for the church spire. This was not a day to work in the garden or to go hither and thither. It was not even a day to go down into the village. Rather it was a day for books and tea and blankets in the library, for good music on the radio and for warm soup in the evening. Jean agreed and they spent the day in silence broken only by the turning of pages, the Mozart on the radio and the crackling of the apple wood fire. Jeanne fixed a good lunch and brought it into the library on trays. After supper she played the piano for awhile. She had not played in a long time and at first she was very rusty but as she kept playing some of her old skill returned. She reminded herself to start practicing every day. Her days would now be even fuller. She realized again that judging a life by its outward hustle and bustle is false and even wrong. Only the products of the heart can really be the basis for a judging a life and some of these are never manifested. For the first time she really understood why it is considered a sin to judge another person. No one can ever really see into another’s heart and therefore judging them truly right or wrong is impossible.
It is strange how much can happen inside a person in a short time. The time of the heart does not move as regulated time does. It is more elastic, stretching and retracting. Jeanne had been putting away the piano books while she was thinking. It had only taken her a few minutes but she felt as though her heart had grown several months in that time. She had experienced the same thing when she was reading or painting.
The kitchen was, as always, dark and lonely but she turned on the light and sang Pachelbel’s Canon while she did the dishes and suddenly the darkness did not seem so dark. Sometimes it is small silly gestures like these that sway the balance between light and dark—bandaging a child’s bleeding knee, planting geraniums by the side of a house, or singing in a lonely kitchen. Jeanne was not conscious that she was swaying anything at all, but she did not hate the kitchen as she always had before and her heart was light as she went up to bed.
The next morning was foggy again but they were running low on supplies and Jeanne decided that she had to go to Scardale and restock. She did not trust the bicycle and she was afraid of getting lost in the fog so she decided to walk down with a big market basket. The road was unfamiliar in the mist and Jeanne stumbled several times and almost lost her way several other times. Eventually she reached the store which after the cold clamminess of the fog was wonderfully bright and warm. Mrs. Ackley welcomed her kindly and she was able to find almost everything she needed. Mrs. Ackley was adding up her purchases when someone else came into the store. She turned to see who it was. Rosamonde Delacroix in the flesh. Jeanne couldn’t imagine what had brought her there. Rosamonde cocked an eyebrow at her and smiled a little contemptuously.
“I hope your aunt is in good health,” she said.
“She is quite well, thank you,” Jeanne replied. She did not know what Rosamonde was hoping to gain by this but she was resolved not to tell her anything at all.
“I am glad to hear it. I had heard that she sometimes suffers from confusion, but perhaps I was wrong. Chris said he enjoyed his visits with you.”
Jeanne smiled and turned away. This conversation had given her a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She would go to Old Timothy and he would give her tea and then everything would be all right. Mrs. Ackley gave her the things she had bought and she turned blindly towards the door almost stumbling as she walked out. It was almost as if a black hole had opened before her suddenly. All her worries had returned and her lovely happiness of the last few days was completely gone. When she reached Old Timothy’s everything was dark and her knocks echoed in the room. He was not there. This finished her completely and she broke down and cried right there. She cried long and hard. She was so engrossed in her cry that she did not hear the footsteps behind her and when someone put their hand on her shoulder she was startled and swung around with a gasp. Christopher stood there.
“Are you all right?” he asked anxiously.
She laughed a rather watery laugh. “No, I don’t think I am. I was at the store and suddenly I was just so disheartened and cold. So I thought I would come see Old Timothy but he isn’t here and now I think I’ll just sit down and cry.” She sniffed again. He produced a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her. “Thank you,” she said and blew her nose noisily. He slipped his hand under her elbow and took her along with him. She wondered vaguely where they were going but realized that it was probably his house or lodgings. He stopped before a door and unlocked it, whistling vaguely. Inside he turned on the light and sat her down in a chair. Then he went over to the stove and put a kettle on. She looked around. It was small and full of things but it was, in some strange way, not untidy and it was certainly comfortable. She almost preferred its small dark warmth to the large austere darkness of much of Scardale House.
“Please.” She realized that his vague whistling had solidified into Chopin’s Nocturne. He noticed her look and laughed a little.
“I can’t sing worth anything but I whistle most tunefully.”
“Most dexterously?” she asked.
“That’s Twelfth Night. I told you Romeo and Juliet.”
“Yes, but I thought I should start with a comedy.” Christopher handed her a cup.
“A black comedy. Poor Malvolio, they certainly aren’t very kind to him are they? Pretending he’s mad and shutting him up in a dark place.”
“Well I get the feeling that he deserved it. He didn’t seem like a very kind person. We don’t see that side of the story.”
“All too true. I am bested!” He fell back in his chair dramatically but sat up again quickly. “What made you unhappy at the store?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter.”
“Yes it does. What was it Jeanne?”
She looked at the floor rather miserably. “Well, I was there and I had just finished buying everything and Rosamonde Delacroix came in and asked me a few questions and all of a sudden everything was just terrible.” She looked up at him. “Isn’t that sad? I’m sure I shouldn’t have felt that way, but she apparently has that effect on me.”
Christopher did not reply but he did not look pleased. Jeanne felt cold in spite of the tea and suddenly sneezed twice.
“God bless you,” he said solemnly.
“Thank you. I think it’s time for me to go. Thank you.” He shook his head.
“What else would I have done? Left you to weep on Old Timothy’s doorstep? Pas de tout.”
Jeanne laughed. “I didn’t know you knew French.”
“Mais seulement un peu mademoiselle! And I have a horrible accent.”
“It’s not too bad.”
“You flatter me.” He helped her on with her coat. “Will you be able to find your way back?”
“Yes. I think the fog is clearing a little. Thank you anyway. Good bye.”
“Good bye. Say hello to your aunt from me.” She nodded.
Jeanne sat before her mirror that night for a long while, brushing her hair. Contrary to current fashion she wore it long and did it up in a knot at the nape of her neck. It suited her bone structure and enhanced her naturally timeless appearance. She was not one to follow every trend of fashion. Her style, appearance, and outlook could quite easily be called old-fashioned but she preferred classic herself.
At any rate, that night she brushed her hair for a long time until it shone brightly. She was indeed very lovely although she did not think of herself as lovely. Her features were clear and delicate and her coloring was unusual. When she was excited or happy or embarrassed she flushed but when she was sad or tired (she was both that night) she was pale and her eyes and hair stood out starkly. When she was none of these she was a delicate rose. With her hair down and shining she looked like Danae must have. She was tired and cold and puzzled and she felt that the calm had ended and the storm had arrived. She was not sure what it would bring or where it would come from and therefore she could not make ready. This worried her immensely. She could not be called a worrywart exactly but she liked to be prepared and her inability to do so was quite frightening for her. She also felt the need to protect her aunt no matter what happened. This also would be easier to do if she knew what was coming. The very air seemed charged, waiting. She did not want to wait alone in her tower in the dark so she sat and read until she fell asleep. The next morning she could not remember what she had read but it had been better than lying awake in the dark and listening to the wind swirl around her.
The first move was not long in coming. The next afternoon Jean and Jeanne were sitting in the small parlor dusting a number of items they had found all over the house when they heard a knock at the door. Jeanne went to answer it and found a grey-haired man in a suit who she had most certainly never seen in her entire life. “Mr. Entwhistle,” he said. “Your aunt’s solicitor. You must be Miss Jeanne. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Won’t you come in?” Jeanne led the way to the parlor. Her aunt stood when Mr. Entwhistle entered the room.
“Mr. Entwhistle. What on earth brings you here?”
“I must tell you madam that reports of a rather, hem, alarming nature have reached our office and I came down myself to, hem, investigate discreetly.”
“What are these reports?”
“To be honest Miss Hargrave—that is, the elder Miss Hargrave—we were told that you are losing your faculties. That your mind wanders and that you are not able to live on your own anymore.”
Jeanne’s eyes blazed with fury and her cheeks flushed with battle-joy but before she could say anything her aunt cut in, speaking in the iciest voice Jeanne had ever heard.
“I am surprised at you George Entwhistle. In the first place you can see perfectly well that I am not living on my own. My niece Jeanne is here with me and if she ever wishes or finds it necessary to leave I will employ a young woman as a companion. In the second place, while I quite freely admit that I have times when I am confused as to time, this does not mean that my mind wanders or that I am an unfit keeper of this estate. The estate is, in any case, mine to give and you know perfectly well how I have left it. I shall not alter my will or if I decide to, it will be a small alteration in no way changing the main portion of the will. Whoever it was that came to you must be disappointed. You have handled my affairs for many years and you know that I am not foolish or incautious. I refuse to be bullied into anything.”
“I must protest Miss Hargrave that it is not my attention to offend you. I do indeed know that you show none of those undesirable traits. But it is my duty to investigate any such claims, no matter how outlandish or how repellent it may be to my own feelings. I am a busy man Miss Hargrave and the fact that I and not a representative is here speaks to my feelings on the matter. This silly accusation must be kept quiet. I trust you and your niece will agree with me on the matter.”
“Well then, I will trouble you no more. Good day to you ladies. Is there a reputable inn here?”
“Do not be sillier than you can help, I beg of you. You will stay here tonight and we will feed you ham and broccoli au gratin. You will enjoy yourself.” Jeanne spoke with a great deal of force and Mr. Entwhistle gave in as gracefully as he could. Over the broccoli and ham he leaned across the table and whispered to Jeanne, “I should have been miserable in the inn.”
“Indeed you would have sir,” Jean replied. “Yes, I know you were speaking to my niece, but your whispers leave much to be desired. If my sixty year old ears can hear you, you are not whispering. And the inn is quite good to visit but a bad place to stay.”
“I wonder how that woman stomachs it,” Jeanne said, not thinking about the possible effect that this might have on their visitor. He dropped his fork and stared at her.
“Woman?” he asked.
“Rosamonde Delacroix is her name. She is staying at the Red Dragon.”
Mr. Entwhistle turned pale. “Oh, how interesting.”
“Mr. Entwhistle, are you all right?” Jeanne asked.
“Yes, yes, quite all right my dear young lady. A momentary twinge. I am subject to them at times.”
He went to bed early and did not sleep well. Jean and Jeanne sat awhile together in front of the fire in the library as they liked to do.
“How odd Mr. Entwhistle was at dinner. Do you know anything about it aunt?”
Jean sat silent for a moment, almost as if turned to stone. “Know anything about what my dear?”
“About Rosamonde Delacroix.”
“I do know something of it but I cannot tell you now. Some day soon I will make everything clear, I promise.”
“Absolutely. Now I am going to bed. I am an old lady and I need my rest. Good night Jeanne.”
“Good night Aunt Jean.”
As usual, the fire held no answers for Jeanne. “I am not Lizzie Hexam,” she murmured to herself as she lit her candle to light her ascent to her tower.

St.Cybi of Wales

St. Cybi of Wales--Nov. 5/18

St. Cybi was a Cornish and Welsh bishop of the sixth century. He was the son of a king and was raised as a Christian. He was ordained a priest and then a bishop in Rome and when he returned to Cornwall he found that his father was dead and he was king. He gave up the throne and began travelling thoughout the country preaching. He worked in Cornwall, Wales, and Ireland before settling permanently in Wales. He founded an important monastery on what was then called Holy Island (it later became known as Ynys Gybi--Cybi's Island). He died and was buried near his monastery at Holyhead.

Sources: Wikipedia
St. Cybi

St. Cybi and his friend St. Seiriol

St. Anastasia

St. Anastasia of Rome Oct. 29/Nov. 11

She was born of noble parents but was orphaned at a young age. She was reared by an abbess named Sophia. She was unusually beautiful but decided that she would remain a virgin. During the emperor Decius' persecution of Christians she was denounced as a believer and arrested. The authorities attempted to dissuade her from her chosen path but she remained firm. She was tortured but this caused a furor in the city and the authorities executed her. Her body was thrown out of the city but pious Christians found it and buried it.

Source: St. Anastasia

Another poem


When the cold frost lies
And the ground is hard
And the chill skies
Seem empty and marred

It is hard to believe
That spring will come soon
When the last birds leave
And there's a ring round the moon.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It is Evening.

Well, here we are back again with another poem. Gracious me. And in the midst of November which means in the midst of (drumroll) NaNoWriMo! And yes, I am insane and joined. Anyway, your poem.

It is evening

It is evening.
Here there are five of us.
Glasses clink, silverware rattles.
There is a happy silence.

How many families do not/
Will not/
Sit down and eat together?
I speak not of some microwave dinner
But of real food.

We need our families--
Just plain weird.
We still need them.

Open your eyes and there is light.
This is the first day.
And now your eyes see shapes.
This is the second day.
Someone has picked flowers. They wait--
All wait for you.
This is the third day.
Do you see the light in your mother' s eyes?
They are twin suns/twin moons.
This is the fourth day.
Cat comes and lookks at you. He sniffs you
This is the fifth day..
I am. I am me. This is the sixth day.
Rest on the seventh day and all the seventh days to come.
One baby: All the world.
One family: All the universe.

It is morning.
Here there is one
Waiting, walking, running.
This is the beginning.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pride and Prejudice 2005 Review

It may be very nice, but it’s not Jane Austen
A review of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice

While I have not yet personally seen the new Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFadyen, I have seen the previews released before the movie several times and read many reviews by people whose opinions I trust. I have also read the book many times and watched the 1995 movies starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as much as possible. Therefore, although I have not seen the movie, I do feel somewhat qualified to make a judgement of it based on these factors.

I have read some reviews which said essentially (I am not quoting from any one in particular) “Well, it’s not like the book, or even like the old movie, but I could forgive it for a lot of things because of the beautiful cinematography.” However, I personally take exception to the style of cinematography. With its dramatic swooping shots, and beautiful but wild landscapes it is better suited to Charlotte Brontë than Jane Austen. Austen is, above all, controlled and contained. I do not believe that she would have enjoyed Brontë’s melodramatic style any more than Brontë enjoyed Austen’s “middle class” books, and it is certainly a pity that this style of cinematography has been adapted to an Austen work. (By the way, why a cliff exactly? As a friend of mine pointed out, the rocks in the 1995 P&P are just plain more interesting. Cliffs are rather overdone.)

Let us compare this for a moment to the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. Here the cinematography, while beautiful, is restrained and controlled, just as Lizzy is. Jennifer Ehle’s Lizzy, or for that matter, Jane Austen’s, would never go into a hissy fit when her parent (we’ll get back to that later) wants her to marry Mr. Collins. Instead she holds her ground while maintaining her dignity. She refuses to marry Mr. Collins, but she retains our respect while doing so. When Kiera Knightley goes into her temper tantrum I want to throw cold water on her.

One of the aspects that annoys me the most about the 2005 P&P is the lack of respect for the book. It seems that the screen writers for this movie somehow did not understand that people have been in love with this book for 200 years. In particular, those who love it have either memorized it or nearly memorized it. There are certain lines which anyone who loves the book will look for in a movie version. When they are not there the Jane Austen lover is deeply disappointed. And this movie lacks many of those lines. For instance, in the book one exchange between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy goes like this:
‘“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”
“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practising…”
Darcy smiled and said, “You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you, can think any thing wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.”’

It appears like this in the 1995 P&P:
Darcy: "I have not that talent, which some possess, of conversing easily with strangers."
Lizzie: "Why, I do not play this instrument as well as I should wish, but I have always considered that to be my own fault, because I would not take the trouble to practice."
Darcy: "You are quite right. You have employed your time much better. We neither of us perform to strangers."

And like this in the 2005 P&P:
LIZZIE: (cont'd) Prepare yourself for something very dreadful. (stops playing) The first time I saw him, at the Assembly, he danced with nobody at all - even though gentlemen were scarce and there was more than one young lady who was sitting down without a partner.
DARCY: (colouring) I knew nobody beyond my own party.
LIZZIE: (smiles sweetly) True, and nobody can be introduced in a ballroom.
LADY CATHERINE: Fitzwilliam! I need you!

Fitzwilliam moves away. Darcy and Lizzie are alone. Darcy's struggling with his pride which suddenly gives way.

DARCY: I do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.
LIZZIE: Perhaps you should take your aunt's advice and practice.
Darcy flinches. Lizzie turns away from him and carries on playing. Darcy gazes at the curve of her neck.

The difference is startlingly apparent. In both the text of the novel and the 1995 screenplay, Lizzy certainly teases Darcy, yet she is not cruel. In the 2005 screenplay she is almost mean. But for the reader there is a more serious accusation. I hope that I am understood when I say that the beauty and felicity of the language of Miss Austen has been stripped away in the 2005 screenplay. Compare “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess, of conversing easily with those I have never seen before,” or even “I have not that talent which some possess of conversing easily with strangers” to “I do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.” Even though in this specific example most of the line is the same through all three, the 2005 screenplay is much the worse—why “people I have never met before” instead of “strangers”? Did the writer imagine that the ignorant movie-going audience wouldn’t know the word “stranger”? And so we miss the exquisite underlying meaning of Miss Austen: to Darcy Lizzy is a stranger even though he is fascinated by her.

One more of these examples. When Mrs. Bennet tries to use her husband to force Lizzy to marry Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet comes back with one of the greatest comedic lines in Pride and Prejudice. “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.—Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” What a wonderful line, with its unexpected catch phrase! And Benjamin Whitrow delivers it with just the right amount of dry humour in the 1995 P&P, while Alison Steadman reacts perfectly as Mrs. Bennet, nodding along until the last phrase when she sinks crying into a chair. Unfortunately, the screenwriters of P&P 2005 once again felt that it was not right, and so changed it to “”

But really this issue of changing the lines in some respect is a rather serious one. How can you claim (I am not referring to any statement put forth by the actors, writers, or producers of P&P 2005 other than the use of Miss Austen’s name and that of Pride and Prejudice) to be faithfully representing the work of Jane Austen when you constantly change what she said? If you believe that you are a better writer than Jane Austen you have some serious ego-issues. Sadly, this appears to be the belief of the 2005 screenwriters.

Now we pass on to another problem I have, namely the amount of sensuality in the 2005 movie. I am not one to deny that there is a sensual side to Jane Austen. There is. There is great passion in her novels and in the 1995 movie. But, once again, it is restrained. The passion is not expressed by steamy scenes, but by the way Darcy and Lizzy look at each other, the way their shoulders move closer when they walk. It is present when Lizzy accidentally walks into a room where Darcy is shooting pool, even though that scene lasts only a few seconds and they are never within two feet of each other. The romantics among us (I plead guilty) must wait until after they are married for them to kiss. Even when they are engaged, they merely walk next to each other. They don’t need to do anything else. The quiet smiles that they share are all that is needed. The 2005 movie goes for the exact opposite effect. During the first proposal scene, when Lizzy declares that Darcy is the last man in the world she would ever marry, they are standing on top of each other and then move closer. To all appearances, they are about to kiss. That they do not is somehow a mistake, an oops, don’t worry, that comes later. Naturally this then removes much of the central tension of the plot as well as drastically changing it by changing the real feelings of Elizabeth toward Darcy. How are we supposed to believe that her feelings have changed after that scene? No, instead we are supposed to believe that she has simply uncovered her “true” feelings—that they were there all along and she just denied him. All right, quite plausible. But it’s not the way Jane Austen set it up.

Also, the ending in the United States was considered notoriously sensual by many. (This even leaving aside the question of why it was considered necessary to have separate endings for the US and the UK.) Have Darcy and Lizzy turned into high schoolers? We can hope not, but I am afraid that the evidence is against us. Instead of a meeting of mind and character we have, well, a meeting of bodies primarily. I am afraid that is rather frank, but then so is the movie.

In the end, after examination of the text of the novel and the text of the two screenplays, I am forced to conclude that the screenwriters of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice unfortunately chose the easy road—the road of cheap thrills and art shots, of high school romance versus the real thing. They also, again unfortunately, seem to have considered their audience dumb enough to require a watered-down Jane Austen as if we couldn’t take the real thing. I am also forced to conclude that Andrew Davies and the team that produced the 1995 miniseries did none of those things. Certainly there is beautiful cinematography (think Pemberley rising from the pond) and certainly there are romantic moments (think The Look) but it is faithful to Jane Austen—not word by word or line by line, but faithful to her spirit and to the spirit of Pride and Prejudice, to the book which has been loved by so many people for so long. Charlotte Brontë not withstanding. Perhaps much of this may be attributed to the fact that they did not try to squeeze the story into two hours. I understand the restraints of commercial movie making, but it is well-nigh impossible to get everything in, with the result that Wickham and Lydia have largely been left out, again to the detriment of the plot. Perhaps some day I will see the 2005 Pride and Prejudice but I’m afraid it won’t be with high hopes. After all, I’ve read the screenplay.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Poem for the week.

When I dip into these words
Written in times long gone
And see theat they are real
I see truth goes on and on.

Truth dos not change
Though men believe her wrong.
Some few hold fast
And exalt her still in song.

April 16, 2005

November's Quote

I didn't do terribly well with my entries last month. I beg your pardon--I'll try to do better this month. Anyway, here's November's quote.

"Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be."
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe