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Jane Austen: Her Life
Jane Austen: Her Life
by Park Honan
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen's world was "Vile" and she loved it, 3 Feb 2001
This review is from: Jane Austen: Her Life (Paperback)
This is beyond any doubt the definitive biography of Austen. Park Honan strips away the fallacies of the inventor of the modern novel as a proto-Victorian spinsterish countrywoman with a life remarkable for its absence of incidents, to reveal the full-blooded artist and woman who drew on her enormously astute understanding of politics, economics, philosophy, religion and art to make sharply and darkly ironic observations about her own elegant and brutal age - the Age of Enlightenment and empire.
From the grim realities of life in the Navy as experienced by two of her brothers (who both went on to become Admirals) to the world class flirting of her cousin (and later sister-in-law) Eliza la comtesse de Feuillide - a favourite at the French court before the revolution and whose husband le comte lost his head to Madame la Guillotine in 1792 - to the satirical, Tory magazine published by her eldest brothers during their student days - and to which she apparently submitted letters critical of their magazine's ambivalent attitudes to women when she was thirteen, critisism they listened to - he demonstrates the wide range of influences on her view of the world and its expression through her art. We are given touching, hilarious and delightfully tangible clues to some of her themes, characterisations and jokes : Miss Taylor, Emma's governess whose indulgent treatment of her young charge was the cause of some much trouble for the village of Highbury was named for a fiery Spanish wine drunk by officers at Portsdown and anglicised from Mistella - as they said, Miss Taylor only tended to spoil one.
The devoted relationship between the sisters (known in the family as The Girls), Cassandra and Jane, is given its proper place, with Cassandra recognised as being in effect Jane's editor, although her advice (she thought Fanny Price ought to have accepted Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park) was sometimes ignored. Henry Austen's pride and enthusiasm for his sister's work was a source of gratitude and irritation for Jane when he couldn't help revealing the secret of her identity as the author of those remarkable novels everyone was talking about while visiting friends in Scotland. After her death he continued to promote her work, ensuring the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, with his own short and rather sanitised biographical notice attached. The attitude of her eldest brother James, however, was very different. He regarded novels as Whiggish and dangerous, writing a poem after her death which more or less said "we loved her despite the fact that she was the greatest novelist of all time". The two had flaming rows on his visits to Chawton, occasioned, as it seems to me, by fury on her part that his anti-intellectual second wife had beaten him into a dullness which was in stark contrast to his younger, satirical self, and a sort of unconscious artistic jealousy on his (he fancied himself as a poet but never achieved anything to rival Jane's success).
Jane Austen's courage and philosophy in facing her long, messy and painful death (probably from cancer - Eliza and her aunt died prematurely of the same disease) at the age of forty-one is inspirational. In the last months of her life she began a new novel, an adaptation of Northanger Abbey, where the young woman mislead by gothic novels is replaced by a young man lead astray by romantic poetry. It remains unfinished, but a testament to her tenacious spirit. Thank you, Park Honan, for bringing her back to life for a moment and allowing us to discover the real Jane Austen.


Nelson: A Personal History
Nelson: A Personal History
by Christopher Hibbert
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Not-Too-Personal "Personal History", 13 Jan 2001
Christopher Hibbert, with a long and venerable list of biographies behind him, gives us an easy-to-read, detailed and moving portrait of the great naval hero in this Personal History. One of the book's great appeals is the lack of pseudo-Freudian or pop-psychology analyses of Lord Nelson's character and motivations : the reader is left to his or her own reflections. There are a good number of illustrations, from Rowlandson's rather rude cartoons to the master painters' portraits of Nelson's beloved "wife", Lady Emma Hamilton, in her various histrionic poses, as well as portraits of the hero himself in chronological sequence. Extracts from Nelson's insanely jealous letters to Emma, written sometimes at the rate of half a dozen per day while he was at sea, show the desperate,painfully human (and to many of his contemporaries, frankly ridiculous) private man, which stood in such contrast to the man of action, driven by "animal courage" to great victories at St Vincent, Copenhagen and Trafalgar. I found myself more and more inclined to treasure this book as I went along, and by the end to feel something like affection for its protagonist (who, as a young man, seemed the most monstrous bore imaginable) and something very definitely like gratitude to the author for taking me on such a entertaining and moving journey. I can't wait to read it again.


Flambards: Episodes 7-13 - Sing No Sad Songs [VHS] [1979]
Flambards: Episodes 7-13 - Sing No Sad Songs [VHS] [1979]
VHS
Offered by shannon-raven
Price: 14.49

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, if at times slightly silly, ending to the series, 12 Jan 2001
This second half of the Flambards series follows Christina's journey from the crumbling, feudalistic world of her crippled Uncle's country estate to the dangerous and exciting new world of flying machines, motor cars, the suffragette movement and the First World War. Having eloped with her flying cousin Will, against the well-laid plans of her Uncle, she has to deal with the unromantic reality of work and the lack of it, excitement that is closer to fear, and a love which Will can only partly reciprocate. Eventually Christina finds herself returning to Flambards under very different conditions, and with her newly inherited wealth, begins bringing the old place back to life. As with the first video, in this the star of the show is very often the beautiful Yorkshire countryside (near Ripon), and the magnificent country house used in the title role. We meet some new and charming characters, such as Sandy, the dashing young pilot whose mother is always in prison for her suffragette activities, and Sandy's emancipated girlfriend and general good-time girl, Dorothy. A little bit of history creeps in from time to time amidst the melodrama, but this is largely metaphorical. An enchanting pseudo-historical drama based on the subtle, thoughtful books by K.M.Peyton, with unforgettable music by David Fanshawe. Well worth adding to your video library if you don't mind a little bit of silliness amongst the gold.
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