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.

Jane Austen illustrations from the British Library

Technology is awesome. This week, it’s particularly awesome because I learned that the British Library has used it to post a whole mess of nifty illustrations from beloved classic editions of Jane Austen’s novels to its Flikr stream.

Some of these Austen illustrations include Irish Illustrator Hugh Thomson’s famous line drawings for Macmillan’s 1896 edition of Emma, represented below by Mr. Knightley’s proposal.

Hugh Thomson illustration for Jane Austen’s Emma: Mr. Knightley proposes.

For more from and about iconic illustrated Austen works, peruse the following:

 

Paul Gordon’s Emma is back onstage – in Arizona!

Anneliese Van der Pol as Emma Woodhouse.

Paul Gordon’s stage version of Jane Austen’s Emma is back, continuing its 2012-2013 run at the Arizona Theatre Company through January 20. It looks like a very lavish production, starring television and Broadway actress Anneliese Van der Pol as Emma Woodhouse.

The show ran in Tucson from December 1-22, resuming this week in Phoenix. If you live in Arizona, why not ring in the new year with some Emma?

More information on Emma in Arizona:

 

Presentation copy of Jane Austen’s Emma for sale…again!

Anne Sharp’s Copy of Emma, from Sotheby’s.

I was kind of avoiding this because I thought it might’ve been a bad case of necrolink, but apparently it’s true: Anne Sharp’s presentation copy of Jane Austen’s Emma is indeed for sale…again. It last sold at auction in April, 2010 for the then pounds sterling-equivalent of $271,294.

The set of three volumes is one of twelve special first edition copies – “presentation” copies as they’re called – reserved for Austen’s family, friends, and her highest-profile fan of the period, the Prince Regent (care of his royal librarian, James Stanier Clarke). Anne Sharp is often noted as the only “friend” among the bunch of recipients. Miss Sharp had served as governess to Austen’s beloved niece, Fanny Knight, and by most accounts is the logical model for the Woodhouse girls’ dear former governess, Mrs. Weston, in Emma. Continue reading “Presentation copy of Jane Austen’s Emma for sale…again!”

Happy Hallowe’en!

The Three Witches from Macbeth (Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Anne Seymour Damer) by Daniel Gardner

Hallowe’en season is here! To commemorate spookiness’ return, I’ve adjusted my blog theme to feature Daniel Gardner’s “Three Witches from Macbeth.” This pastel triple-portrait from 1775 features Lady Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess of Melbourne; Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire; and Mrs. Anne Seymour Damer, the artist, portrayed as the famous witches from Shakespeare’s play.

The famous Duchess of Devonshire was about eighteen years old when she posed for this piece. It was created not long after her marriage to the Duke, at around the same time she became a rising star in Britain’s most fashionable set, the bon ton. Following in her friend Lady Melbourne’s footsteps, and owing to her marriage into a powerful family of Whig partisans, she would also become the most celebrated political hostess in England.

The three friends make awfully cute sorceresses, don’t they? For more on this piece, check out its official entry at the National Portrait Gallery.

Link: Dear Mr. Knightley…

It’s come to my attention that Mr. George Knightley of Jane Austen’s Emma fame is now authoring his own advice blog, titled Letters to Mr. Knightley! With help from colleagues and friends, he’ll be dispensing his wit and wisdom on life and love to the denizens of Highbury, the Internet, and beyond. Here’s a man I’d trust with any problem!

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.

 

Historic Costume: Greco-Roman Chiton and Lady Emma Hamilton’s Attitudes

Me! In Ionic chiton, performing one of Lady Emma Hamilton’s Attitudes (I forgot to take off my glasses!). In some printings of Friedrich Rehberg’s sketches engraved, this is called “Cleopatra Seduttrice.” It is probably based on artistic rendrings of Agrippina offering libations at the tomb of Germanicus (suggested by John Wilton-Ely and confirmed by me). There is a priestess statue from the macellum (marketplace) shrine in Pompeii that strongly informs this pose and in its restored state includes a libation bowl in one hand. It is sometimes referred to as Agrippina.

Because I love Greco-Roman antiquity, I needed to make myself a chiton. Because I’ve performed Lady Emma Hamilton’s famous, classically-inspired tableaux vivants twice in the last twelve years, I needed to make myself a chiton. Because chitons are awesome and I like them, I needed a chiton.

By this point in the blog post, you might be asking yourself, “What the heck is a chiton? Who is Lady Hamilton? And those “tableaux” thingies?” I know it sounds like a strange combination of ideas, but it’s honestly not as complicated as it seems. In fact, the chiton – a very simple women’s  (and men’s!) garment originating in ancient Greece and widely used as a basic dress or underdress for women in Roman eras – is extremely easy to make and wear. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Emma, My Inspiration

Rehberg’s drawing of Lady Emma’s “Cleopatra Seduttrice” attitude, likely influenced by both Roman and modern (as in, Renaissance onward) renderings of Agrippina (or others) offering libations to the gods.

First, the Lady Emma part of the explanation. Our English Regency society puts on various events dealing with events and culture from the late Georgian period of British history. In the course of preparations for a ball honoring the great naval hero Lord Horatio Nelson, I somehow got roped into playing a role. And not just any role; I would be recreating Lady Emma Hamilton’s famous “attitudes.” Lady Emma performed these silent tableaux from 1787 through the 1790s and into the early 19th century, sparking several high-profile imitations and influencing modern dance and other forms of performance art over a hundred years later. Now, this was 1999 and I was crazy busy trying to finish my last year of law school. The last thing I probably needed on my plate was a performance of some sort, but for Emma Hamilton I made an exception.

Restored priestess sculpture from the macellum (marketplace) shrine in Pompeii. Sometimes referred to as Agrippina, her pose is similar to Rehberg’s drawing of Emma.

Continue reading “Historic Costume: Greco-Roman Chiton and Lady Emma Hamilton’s Attitudes”