Greatly enjoyed "Miss Austen Regrets" - A wonderfully tightly written and beautifully acted production on BBC here last night, a drama created on the basis of Jane's surviving letters to her sister Cassandra and her niece, Fanny. Not at all the sentimental slop that can occasionally rise up attached to the name Jane Austen - I found the characters strongly shaped and utterly believable. One of my own favourite actresses, Phyllida Law, plays Jane's mother with the same sharpness of observation and retort that I remember from my own mother in law.
Speaking of Jane....here are a few images of my visit last week with Liz to the National Trust property of Basildon Park, only half an hour from here, and the venue for the filming of the 2005 big-screen version of "Pride and Prejudice", which featured Keira Knightley. I'm sorry to say that I found that version insipid in comparison with the BBC's own production, with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett and the delectable Colin Firth leading the wet shirt brigade as Mr Darcy. (though if you want your illusions shattered about this scene, watch the first film clip on the BBC link above - and if you want your illusions confirmed about Mr Darcy - watch the second!)
It was a gloriously sunny spring day at Basildon, the gardens were looking wonderful with that particularly sharp acid green of new spring growth everywhere - especially in the cowslip meadow beneath the oaks, above.
The house is very interesting to visit, for though the contents are not original, they are a wonderful example of what could be "picked up" in the 1950's at country house sales, (so many were being sold and gutted because of extortionate death duties) when Lord and lady Iliffe were restoring the house and filling its virtually empty interior with furnishings appropriate to the style. (I don't know if the exquisite Zuber wallpaper (below) was acquired then, or is original - but the dozens of colours used for each hand blocked panel are certainly a very big cut above what one normally buys on a roll!)
There is also a room dedicated to the Dillon family, full of Dillon family portraits. Since my Mother in law is also a member of that family, it is disconcerting to walk around the room, seeing 18th century versions of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law looking down at me. A total affirmation that "you can't escape your genes!" - Though as one of the portraits is of King Charles II, who had a liaison with one ancestor (Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland) "on the wrong side of the blanket" - one wonders what - ahem - behaviours as well as looks "the genes" have handed down to my own boys!
(No cause for alarm yet - but I'll be watching them :-))
Picture of Jane Austen courtesy of abcnews.com