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Party at Pemberley

I’ve noticed that Jane Austen doesn’t go into a lot of details about food in her novels. But there’s one meal in Pride and Prejudice that’s described in some detail: the refreshments Mr. Darcy serves Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt when they pay a social visit to Pemberley. By this point in the story, Elizabeth has roundly rejected Darcy’s awkward and rather insulting proposal of marriage. But Elizabeth’s hard feelings towards Darcy begin to melt when she sees him in his natural surroundings at Pemberley, his impressive country home. Austen describes the informal meal like this:“The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and t…
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Wedding bells for Mr. Darcy

I just love it when a romantic story ends with a wedding. And few stories are as romantic as Pride and Prejudice. But where’s the wedding at the end?
You see, during quarantine, I decided to copy Jennifer Ehle and re-read Pride and Prejudice. (You may remember Ehle as the actress who played Elizabeth Bennet, opposite Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy, in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.)
Reading Pride and Prejudice helped me cope with lockdown. Even though I’m very familiar with the story, Jane Austen’s prose was delightful. No movie can really do her words full justice.  
But when I got to the end of the book, I confess I felt a little cheated. Though we know Darcy proposes again to Lizzie and she accepts him at last, we don’t get a description of their wedding. I was surprised – I guess that in the years since I’d read the book I’d forgotten the story didn’t end with an actual marriage ceremony. 
You can pardon my confusion - the final scene in the BBC mini-series is a joyous doubl…

"Bright Star" - John Keats's quarantine poem

Where I live in Oregon we’re going on 10 weeks of “shelter-in-place,” an order from the governor that feels very much like quarantine. Movie theatres, dine-in restaurants, hair salons, shopping malls, parks, playgrounds – all are currently closed in an effort to stop the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Like many of my friends, family, and neighbors, I‘ve been experiencing a range of emotions as the weeks drag on. At times I’ve felt anxious, depressed, confined, and even angry. That's to be expected, or so we're told. But what I didn’t expect was to feel a surge of creativity. 
Since lockdown I’ve worked on revising a novel, started another blog, planted flowers, tried new recipes, spackled and painted dings in our walls (that I’ve been meaning to get to for years), de-cluttered closets and crocheted a blanket, a wall hanging and an amigurumi cat.
Who knew that staying home could be so productive? Just about everybody, I guess. It should be no surprise that if you can…

Emma.

Last March, just before COVID-19 caused most of the world to go into lockdown, I actually went to a movie theater. That’s how I got to see Emma. in all its glory on the big screen, just like God and Hollywood intended.
And what a treat it is! Emma. is a confection of a movie, whipped up in pretty candy color hues of yellow, blue, and pink. This visual sweetness is offset by Jane Austen’s tart observations. The story is further embellished with lush scenery, beautiful costumes (I don’t think Emma wears the same gown twice), and a soundtrack featuring Mozart and Haydn as well as traditional English melodies.
Emma was the fourth novel Jane published, and by 1815 when the book came out she was a successful author writing under her own name. Her fame was such that even the Prince Regent was an admirer. Through an intermediary, he invited her to dedicate Emma to him.
That request must have bemused Jane. She was no fan of Prinny; she sided with his estranged wife Caroline of Brunswick. Writin…

Sanditon!

Let's celebrate! There's a brand-new Jane Austen adaption airing on public television, a Regency-set story rich with all the details Regency fans love. This show really has it all. Snappy dialogue! Intrigue! Comedy! Gorgeous gowns and ballroom dancing! Studly heroes and beautiful heroines!

And all that was just in the first two episodes of Season One, which made its U.S. debut last Sunday, January 12.

But this new version also has a few extra elements you might not expect - I certainly didn't. It includes scenes of nude sea-bathing, something men did while their female counterparts changed into swimming costumes using cumbersome "bathing machines," also shown in the show.

There's even some implied sleazy sex - not graphic but unmistakable. This series is definitely a new take on a typical Jane Austen story.

But then, this isn't a typical Jane Austen story, if there is such a thing. Critics note that Sanditon is more like some of Jane's earlier, pre-p…

Macaroni Men and Yankee Doodles

November is a month that here in the United States is defined by food, culminating in a huge Thanksgiving Day feast. It's also the month we honor our military veterans. So I'm going to focus on both food and patriotism - especially an Italian pasta product that became synonymous with a controversial English fashion and developed uniquely American associations.
During the 18th century, it was all the rage for young men of the English nobility to take a trip through Europe to soak up its art and culture. It was called the Grand Tour.
In Italy, these privileged lads discovered a pasta dish far removed from their usual British fare. It was called maccaroni, and they raved about it when they got back home. The travelers became known as the Macaroni Club, though there is no evidence an actual club ever existed.
But it wasn't their love of pasta recipes that made the club members distinctive. Along with foreign food, these young aristocrats adopted a style of dress and behavior that…

The Witch and the Rollright Stones

Magic, ritual, myth, and mystery – there’s a lot to love about the Rollright Stones, located on the border between Oxfordshire and Warwickshire in England. And although this isn’t the only prehistoric stone circle in Great Britain, it does have one attraction the others don’t – a witch legend.  
According to the story, once upon a time a king, his army, and his knights were marching through the ancient Cotswold Hills when they encountered a witch. This witch told the king that he could become the king of all England if after taking seven long strides he could take see the town of Long Compton.
The king followed her instructions, but after taking seven steps his view of the town was blocked by a mound. So, the witch, no doubt with an evil cackle, turned the king and his followers to stone. And they remain petrified to this day - the king’s men, the huddled knights, and the solitary king. 
The legend doesn’t end there. The witch herself became an elder tree, supposedly still nearby. If yo…