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P&P Rant

November 9th, 2005 · 2 Comments

So. Full disclosure here: I have not seen the new Pride and Prejudice adaptation. I hope to see it this weekend. I am trying desperately to keep an open mind. I expect to enjoy parts of it, at least, if not all. I will attempt to take it on its own terms. I have been pleasantly surprised by an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice before. I have also thrown things at the screen while watching another adaptation (no offense to Sir Laurence Olivier or Greer Garson, but the 1940 version SUX). In any case, I plan on seeing this version and posting my honest opinion afterwards.


I’ve been keeping up with the press on the new adaptation, mostly via Austenblog, but other places as well. Today BYU’s college newspaper reprinted an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It’s mostly positive, but this made me see red.

He also wanted a much earthier “Pride & Prejudice.” This film doesn’t sugarcoat the Bennets’ meager existence ??? pigs and chickens run freely in the unkempt, mud-soaked yard. (The movie, written by Deborah Moggach, was shot in a variety of locations in England.)

“I did a lot of research and discovered that people did live ??? especially with the income the Bennets would have ??? in a close proximately to their rural environment,” Wright said. “I felt it was important [to show that]. Aesthetically, I like mess. I don’t like tidiness.”

I can only assume that “a lot of research” equalled “I Googled it, and ignored anything that I didn’t agree with,” because as far as historical accuracy goes, this is horrible. First of all: meager existence? Mr. Bennet has an income of 2,000 pounds per year. A quick Google search provided me with a few rough estimates for how that translates to today’s money. Cliff’s notes estimates that Mr. Bennet’s income would be roughly $180,000 today. Others estimate more like $150,000, while some think it might be around $200,000. In any case, that does not, to me, equal a “meager” existence. True, Darcy’s 10,000 pounds (anywhere from $700,000 to $1,000,000 per year) is such that Mr. Bennet’s fortune pales in comparison, but 2,000 pounds a year does not a pauper equal. Even a much smaller income, such as the 500 pounds a year the Dashwood women are left with, is enough to rent a comfortable cottage and employ at least two servants, one of whom was a man and therefore subject to a luxury tax. 400 pounds per year is considered sufficent to marry on, and to still be considered a member of the gentry. The Bennet girls are “penniless” not because their father has an insufficient income, but because they will inherit no more than 1,000 pounds each. It is their dowry, not their father’s income, which is the problem when it comes to matrimony.

Second, it is very true that most of Mr. Bennet’s income came from rents paid to him from his estate, and from the home farm. His horses are often wanted in the farm, and are therefore unavailable for the carriage. It may be that the farm was not as far away from the house as we generally see, as in P&P2. However. Mr. Bennet may be a lot of things, but a bad manager of his estates he most certainly is not. Mrs. Bennet may be a lot of things, but she prides herself on the superiority of her housekeeping every bit as much as the beauty of her daughters. Longbourn would be neither unkempt not untidy. Chickens and pigs would not be allowed free reign of the house. The idea is unthinkable.

It’s things like these that make me fear for this adaptation. Add in the badly-made costumes, the lack of wearing bonnets in public (sorry, but no. no.), and the fact that the most frequently applied adjective to the new adaptation is “Bronteish”– gah. My resolve to wait and see becomes weaker by the minute.

*turns lovingly to shiny new Oxford Illustrated Austen volumes*

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Also: Elizabeth Bennet’s nickname is spelled “Lizzy,” not “Lizzie.” Stop. Spelling. It. Wrong. It’s almost as bad as calling our beloved Jane “Miss Austin.”

Tags: Fandom · Jane Austen · Rant

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Zanitta // Nov 10, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    Having seen the new P&P (it came out in England a couple of months ago) I have to say I like it. It may not be as historically accurate as it could be, but it has a certain scope to it, a size that other adaptions (such as the beeb’s Colin Firth version) don’t quite manage to convey. I love both versions, the size of the newest one and the detail of the older one (after all, I suppose it could be argued that the p&p does focus on a small number of families so why does it need size?) and I would definately say ‘see it’ then at least you can decide after.

  • 2 sissoed // Nov 30, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks very much for demonstrating that it is historically inaccurate for the Bennett house to be full of animals as this 2005 movie shows. While I like the new movie, it struck me that this aspect cannot possibly have been historically accurate, and you have confirmed it.