Jane Austen’s Emma is almost 200!

Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma (1996 Miramax adaptation).

It’s hard to believe that December will mark the 200th anniversary of Emma‘s publication. The recent lead up’s been pretty interesting, including a modern retelling of the novel by Alexander McCall Smith and Pemberley Digital’s multimedia Emma Approved adaptation, which wrapped last year. Various organizations, including the Bay Area English Regency Society in the San Francisco Bay Area, are organizing celebrations commemorating the event. Even though it’s not popular on the same level as, say, Pride & Prejudice, people love Emma because it has a little something for everyone.

Before writing Emma, Jane Austen once expressed, “I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like” (James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen, p. 158). Most believe that the author was at least half-joking when she said this, as Emma Woodhouse is often a great favorite among readers. The character aside, however, the story itself is simply brilliant. Part romance, part comedy, part drama, and part “detective novel,” adapters for stage and screen have lots of choice when it comes to direction and focus. If the depth and texture of the novel has a limitation, it’s in the fact that most adaptations can’t do justice to everything it offers (not even the long miniseries versions).

Jane Austen wrote Emma over the period encompassing January 21, 1814 – March 29, 1815. At his request, she dedicated Emma to her most high-profile fan, the Prince Regent. This is a bit strange, considering that she didn’t care much for him, his conduct towards his wife, or his personality in general. He received a special first edition of the novel (one of twelve “presentation” copies issued by the publisher), in three volumes, which is kept at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. For more on the presentation edition, see this description of Anne Sharp’s copy (Bonhams auction site). Novelist Maria Edgeworth – a favorite of Austen’s – also apparently received a presentation copy of the novel.

First published in December, 1815 (though the frontispiece is dated 1816) by John Murray, Emma was the last work Austen lived to see released. The first edition consisted of 2000 copies. Oddly, the book did not sell well, so the second printing/edition didn’t happen until 1833. For more information on the initial publication of the novel, look here. You will also find opinions on the novel from Austen’s friends and family right here.

For more on Jane Austen’s Emma and its various media adaptations, visit the Emma Adaptations Pages.

Fashionable Emma Woodhouse: Costuming Austen’s Emma Adapted

Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, costumed by Academy Award nominee Ruth Myers.

Fashionable Emma Woodhouse: Costuming Austen’s Emma Adapted

Before the 2009-2010 BBC Emma miniseries came out – and before I’d even started this blog – my friends Vic and Laurel Ann of Jane Austen Today kindly asked me to do a quick piece about costuming in the three previous major adaptations of the novel: the 1971 BBC tv miniseries starring Dorin Godwin, the 1996 Miramax theatrical release starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and the 1996-1997 A&E/ITV movie starring Kate Beckinsale.

It’s based on a previous article on Emma costuming I prepared for Ellie Farrell’s excellent Celluloid Wrappers site, which is dedicated to film costume. Eventually, I’ll be adding a section on the Romola Garai Emma to that article.

 

Emma 3 Music Notes…

Katherine of November’s Autumn recently sent me the following information regarding Jane Fairfax’s “Italian Melody” (by Rossini) in Emma 3 (1996 Meridian/ITV/A&E television adaptation starring Kate Beckinsale):

I was browsing through the music page of your Emma adaptations site and noticed that the song Jane Fairfax sings in Emma 3 is marked as an Italian melody. I recently learned it’s called “Mi lagnerò tacendo” The lyrics are:

Mi lagnerò tacendo della mia sorte amara, ah! Ma ch’io non t’ami, o cara, non lo sperar da me. Crudel, farmi penar così, crudel! Ah! Mi lagnerò tacendo della mia sorte amara, Ma ch’io non t’ami, o cara, non lo sperar da me, crudel!

Cecilia Bartoli sings it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hen9Gyc6ovs The part Jane sings is at 3:15. It sounds different since Jane’s version is far less operatic.

THANK YOU, Katherine, for providing this info!

Austen Pilgrimage to England, 1997

From the “Here we go again” files…

Jonny Lee Miller is an “absurdly young Mr. Knightley”?

He’s 36, people.  And Mr. Knightley, according to Miss Austen, is “a sensible man of about seven or eight-and-thirty.”  Further, Dude’s a very youthful 37 or 38:

“His tall, firm, upright figure, among the bulky forms and stooping shoulders of the elderly men, was such as Emma felt must draw everybody’s eyes; and, excepting her own partner [Frank], there was not one among the whole row of young men who could be compared with him. He moved a few steps nearer, and those few steps were enough to prove how gentlemanlike a manner, with what natural grace, he must have danced, would he but take the trouble.” (At the Crown In Ball.)

Geez.

1972 Emma proposal…

…starring Dorin Godwin and John Carson.

Juliet Stevenson Reads Austen…

The gals at Jane Austen Today provide an excellent feature on Emma 2‘s Juliet Stevenson, my favorite Mrs. Elton and the voice of several Austen audiobooks presented by Naxos.  Naturally, one of them is Emma!

Emma 2 Soundtrack Notes

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the Emma Adaptations Pages recently, which means I’ve rediscovered quite a bit of content. After over twelve years, there’s a ton of stuff about which I’ve entirely forgotten. Worse, much of it is sorely in need of revision. My perspective has changed a TON since 1997; seriously, a lot of the crap I wrote back then screams “21 and dumb” – you know, kinda like Emma herself. Or maybe just clueless, which is also apropos.

Anyway, here’s my little review of the Emma 2 soundtrack, circa 1997 with additions circa 2007. You can read the full article, which includes soundclips, here.

The Emma2 score (runs Runs 42’53”) – composed, orchestrated, and produced by Rachel Portman – is a breathtaking example of musical storytelling.

The main theme is a romantic, bittersweet, and haunting motive, airy and distant, which takes us back to a time and place when life was quiet and cheerful, if not completely happy. It at once encompasses the universality of Austen’s work and themes in its broad, sweeping strings, while at the same time capturing the intimate essence of snug, country community in its gentle woodwinds, harp, and quartet components. “Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on,” Austen once wrote.

Other themes, most notably the forbodingly driving horns and strings of the “Elton’s Rejection” and “Emma Insults Miss Bates” themes, bring home the very pressing and real horror of Emma’s blind mistakes in contrast to the gentle propriety of the main theme. Paired with the melancholy variation of the Main motive which follows it in “Miss Bates” and “Mr. Knightley Returns,” this “Blunder” Theme comes to signify both her anxious revelations and their wretched aftermath.

“The Dance” also perfectly parallels the emotions played out on-screen. As Mr. Knightley rescues the partnerless Harriet, the small sound of the dancehall ensemble is magnified into a glorious, fully-symphonic triumph.

You can buy this soundtrack through Amazon.com. If you order through this link, we will get a portion of the proceeds. You can get the piano sheet music for the End Titles and Frank Churchill Arrives in a collection of Austen film music (Emma2,S&S, P&P2, and Persuasion). It’s available from Faber Music for about five bucks a set. ISBN 0 571 51793 5.

A fun note – The End Titles track is included in the queue area music loop for the Soarin’ attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot park. The piece is not, however, included in the Condor Flats or Soarin’ Over California queue area loops at Disney’s California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort.