Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My beloved spouse and I finished watching the 5-hour BBC “Pride and Prejudice.” The 5-hour length exacerbated the irritating qualities of the irritating characters, but it also deepened the emotional impact of the story. I ended up liking it better than the Keira Knightley version of last year; more moving, more involving. Colin Firth put me off at first and gradually won me over, just as the character puts off and then wins over Elizabeth. The man who played Bingley was radiant, and the woman who played Elizabeth ended up being every bit as terrific as Knightley, maybe even moreso.

I need to read the book again. I still want Mrs. Bennett to be pissed and Mr. Collins to be more dignified-seeming. I’m sure the book pillories them too, but hopefully with room for contrasting attractiveness as well.

In imagining “my” Collins, I keep thinking of Daniel Day-Lewis as the cold, pretentious dandy Cecil in “Room with a View.” And that makes me realize: Bohemianism was a 19th century development. Austen, writing at the turn from the 18th to the 19th century, depicts characters who can be poetry and music lovers, but no aesthetic snobs; only the truly wealthy can afford to be snobbish; there’s no place for the dandy. Keats, who was born later and whose life overlapped with Austen’s, was a lower-middle-class aesthete, but there was nothing of the snob or the dandy in him. Blake, older than Austen but overlapping, was in rebellion against society, but he had none of the dandy’s affectation of languorous detachment.

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