We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

_It's an ill wind that does nobody any good_ · 4 June 07

Memo to self: finally, a new sequel. The last time I wrote fiction it was a prelude to Gone with the Wind.

This to be a group of short stories. Tales. To be called It’s an ill wind that does nobody any good. A series of retellings of the stories of the minor characters in Austen’s books, beginning with Susan Price. Go on to Jane Fairfax, Mary Bennet, Anne de Bourgh, Mary Musgrove.

Interspersed with stories of those who tragedies were the groundwork of Austen’s heroines’ happiness: obviously first up are Eliza Williams and Eliza Brandon.

Then the sort of life Charlotte Lucas Collins is leading and its future. Austen tells she has “as yet” not wearied of her chicken yard and front room.

When an Austen novel is adapted, something is wrong if no where there is a central hero or heroine who means one thing when he or she speaks and is understood to mean its opposite: as, for example, when Elizabeth Bennet in the 1995 P&P tells Mr Collins when he boasts of his situation and house and implies she has had a loss in losing him, says “You are very good.” But there should also be sorrow for the person so stranded: Charlotte may have chosen with her eyes open, and even be content enough, buy into being a sychophant to Lady Catherine, but we can ask, What then was her situation at home and future that this is more endurable.

Mrs Clay. The pathos of her caught in the 1995 film. When Anne turns from the window in Bath where she has been staring at the rain, Mrs Clay stands by the door of the drawing room, and says, half-apologetically (quiet ingratiation), it always rains in Bath.

She is another unconnected poor widow without a name says both Annes aloud to Sir Walter (1995 and 2007). In earlier she looks distressed to say so and the scene is followed hard upon by Mrs Smith’s good-natured but shaky happiness and cheer to be visited.

Then at the Bath shop. How Mrs Clay longs to stay behind with Mr Elliot.

Some via lost letters, some via deep reading of madness in the caricatures as in Elizabeth Jenkins’s Harriet.

Then there’s Jane Bennet. Tell the story from the outlook I have outlined about her character. In the 1995 P&P her flatness of face and increasing hardness (especially when mother says “I knew it should all come out all right” to the tidings from Mr Gardiner) shows she perceives it was partly her mother’s density and crassness that has come between her and Bingley. What should such a story be? What she has actually been feeling. A joke coda about what the marriage brings: not quite true to Mr Bennet’s prediction, but not as far off as the fool woman says.

Grim, gothic some; bitter raw others. Some funny, if I can be, funny in some. Pathos must be the note in others. Using Bad Tuesdays too.

I could begin each on the note I feel as I stare at a still. Ah! Yes.


Posted by: Ellen

* * *


commenting closed for this article