Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.’
    ‘Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?’
    ‘I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.’
    ‘Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?’

Friends and readers,

I am delighted to be able to announce the publication by Valancourt Press of a scholarly edition of what was once the rarest of the seven famous “horrid novels” listed in Austen’s Northanger Abbey: Eleanor Sleath’s The Orphan of the Rhine (1798). The text is based on the first edition and includes an accurate life of Eleanor Sleath (misidentified in the 1968 Folio Press edition) and useful bibliography. Readers will be able to experience for themselves the nature of the text, and another interesting woman writer is added to a fuller spectrum of gothic and women writers. The male lead is a secondary intriguing figure, who, together with the book’s heroine Julie de Rougine (Madame Chamont — characters regularly have more than one name), obliquely mirror a long-time love affair in Sleath’s life. The story belongs to a type outlined by Marianne Hirsh in her The Mother/Daughter Plot, except this solitary mother’s boy and girl grow up to become a Paul et Virginie pair (I allude to Bernardin St Pierre’s wildly popular novella, Englished by Helena Maria Williams). For myself the power of the novel resides in its many descriptive landscapes which capture some still or distant numinous pastoral vision whose deepest impulse is retreat.

Valancourt has also published Sleath’s Pyrenean Banditti (1811), introduction by Rebecca Czlapinski and Eric C. Wheeler


The gothic owes much … to the emancipation of the novel from overt moral commitment. Perhaps it derives most from the enormous interest around the turn of the century in the solitary eccentric, the misfit, the social outcast, or, to use the handy phrase, the guilt-haunted wanderer — Lowry Nelson, Jr, ‘Night Thoughts on the Gothic Novel’


Matavai Bay (1773-74) by William Hodges (at times in the entourage of Hastings)

Dear friends and readers,

In my previous, a preliminary portrait sketch of Philadelphia Austen Hancock, known to “history” as Jane Austen’s cousin Eliza’s mother and Warren Hastings’s mistress for a brief time, I spoke of a single letter by her to Hastings somewhere in Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh’s invaluable Austen Papers. I have since discovered it appears in the section immediately after that made up of Saul Tysoe Hancock, Phila’s husband’s letters, mostly to her: Chapter 4: Eliza in France, 1777-78. Written four years after Hancock’s death, and sent by Hastings’s brother-in-law and man of business in England, Woodman, who controlled and conducted all the Hancock affairs, it confirms all I suggested was true of her character and circumstances.

Although Ronald Dunning has placed on line copies of the texts from this edition, for the convenience of the reader I replicate the text here: its poignancy speaks for itself:

Philadelphia Hancock to Warren Hastings, Paris, 3rd March 1780

After a silence of so many years on your part, nothing shd have prevailed on me to have troubled you with another Letter but my earnest desire to have some information concerning Mr. Hancock’s affairs, and and to whom can I apply but you? Let me conjure you by your Friendship for his memory and by those uncommon marks you have given of it to his Family not to refuse me this request last perhaps I shall ever make you & by the very opportunity let me know how far Mr. Hancock’s have been collected in and how far his Creditors satisfied or likely to be so. Mrs. Forde continues to write e and distresses me beyond measure on account Louisa’s Fortune which was in Mr. Hancock’s Hands. I know not what answer to make her & have vainly waited to receive some Account from you. I shall be happy to hear it will not be all lost. Mrs. Davis is returned from America a Widdow with two Children in great Distress. Is there anything for her? Has my Uncle given you any Account of the Money in his Hands? — about two thousand pounds, I imagine, besides my Brother Hancock’s Bond which I fear we shall see but little of. I have met with many mortifying and disagreeable Events in my Life, but none that has given such lasting Affliction as the reflection that many worthy Persons may be sufferers by the confidence they have unfortunately placed in person whose name I bear, not from any fault of his I will be bold to say for never was there a Man of better principles than Mr. Hancock but from a concurrence of unlucky events — I know not what — some people are born to be unfortunate — I wish also much to know if anything is secured for Clarinda whose demand I enclose to you, be t ht as it may I take it on myself that she shall not be a sufferer in her little Fortune. Alas! She has but too severely suffered in her Health and perhaps may not live to to want it — it is now more than five months that she has been quite helpless and that from so small a beginning as a whitlow on her left thumb which notithstanding all possible assistance and after six operations performed threatened the loss of her Hand & even her life & before those wounds were healed the humour conveyed itself to her right shoulder where she has already had three severe operations performed and threatened with a fourth without some extraordinary change in her favor. She has been attended by three Surgeons, one of them the first in Paris, and a Physician; the latter still attends her and one of the Surgeons Dresses her Arm twice a Day — God knows how it will end, though I am assured her life and the use of her Hands are at present in no danger. — This has been a most unfortunate affair on all accounts & has cost me more anxiety than I can describe; the expence too has been and is still very heavy, it could not have happened at a worse time, but of that I shan’t complain if the poor faithful creature can be restored to me.

I once thought to have confined this Letter to Business but knowing your Heart as I know it and convinced that in spite of appearances it is not changed for your Friends, I cannot refuse you the satisfaction of knowing my Daughter, the only thing I take Comfort in, is in perfect Health, and joins me in every good wish for your Happiness — you may be surrounded by those who are happy in frequent opportunities of shewing their attachment to you, but I will venture to say not one among them who can boast a more disinterested steady and unshaken friendship for you tnan that which for so many years animmated and will ever continue to animate the Breast of

        Dear Sir, your obliged Friend, Phila: Hancock

It is with pleasure I can add here that Clarinda is much better and altho still quite helpless is thought to be out of danger & in about a fortnight may be able to quit her Chamber.

In a letter I some time ago troubled you with, I requested you would send me a collection of Coins &c. I now request you will not think about it as the person I designed them for I shall probably never see again.

Phila’s tone is that of a woman who has had an intimate (using the world in its moral and emotional sense more than the physical, though the physical was there originally) with Hastings. She opens with his silence of so many years. After that letter of 31 January 1772 which I summarized in my previous, whose text begins on p 58 of the Austen Papers, which Hastings wrote to Philadelphia as he was landing in India, he did not write again — as we recall it was one which let her know he was dismissing her. She is hurt and knows he does not want any letters from her. In her Postscript she refers to a letter which she did “send some time ago,” disobeying his implied orders not to bother him ever again, and which he never answered. But, asks she, “to whom can I apply but you?” She conjures him by all their ties to tell her what he knows of Hancock’s financial affairs.

So Woodman has not been forthcoming — for he would know and had not told her. And her brother, George Austen has been cautious and either not told what he was not sure Hastings would approve of or was not fully apprized of what Philadelphia needed to know. I fear that Philadelphia wanted to know about her money and get it at to pay either Lambert or de Feuillide and surmize both Woodman and George Austen were holding out in order to stop this relationship from going further. It could have stopped Feuillide marrying Eliza. We do not know if in response Hastings directed Woodman to be more forthcoming.

And as I surmised, we have evidence at last — testimony — to how much these unpaid bills and all this borrowing Hancock insisted she keep up from her uncle (Francis), from others (anyone who would give her money that Hancock thought ought to), distressed her and continues to aggravate her as people as desperately genteel as herself try to collect from her all the more persistently now that he’s dead. Hancock mentioned his guilt over Louisa (as I wrote these are relatives by second marriages: Mrs Davis may be another. We confront the problem that when women married we get only their married names so we lose where the connection is: we just have it Mrs Davis is widowed and broke.

Philadelphia feels an intense mortification at bearing the name of this man who died owing so much money and having failed to live up to the confidence others had in his abilities. This sense of the man’s name who shames you because it is yours is found repeatedly in women’s correspondence where there is debt: Charlotte Smith voices it over her extravagant husband. These debts are the result of his persistently buying into the values of high status as we shall see in his letters in my next installment on Chapter 3: Hancock and India. When Philadelphia says Hancock had “high principles” but she is referring to morals outside social status, probably to his not having deserted her and having taken on the role of legitimate father to Betsy.

Clarinda is the servant Hancock kept mentioning: I assumed she was young, perhaps a sort of playmate for Eliza, but now it emerges she is old, and has endured the misery of surgery in this era (no anesthetic). Philadelphia seems to have has this woman with her (though she may be staying at an infirmary run by the Surgeon). She clearly sees herself as obliged to care for her. When she says “the poor creature” needs to be “restored” to her perhaps it’s a way of saying Philadelphia wants her health restored so she can be a servant again. Servants did lend masters on the economic edge money (we see how Thackeray’s Crawleys fleece and bankrupt Rawdon’s aunt’s servants and their landlord in Vanity Fair this way)

But Philadelphia cannot resist moving out from “business” to speak of the “heart.” Despite all appearances she must believe “Knowing your heart as I know it” he still wants to hear of “my Daughter.” Eliza in “perfect health”: and “joins in every good wish” for his “happiness.” He may be surrounded by people now with frequent opportunities of showing their attachment but hers and Eliza remains “disinterested” “steady” over “many years.” Such feelings continue to “animate the breast” of Phila Hancock.

A PS tells of how Clarinda is better, and “although helpless” she will be “out of danger” in about a fortnight.” Able to “quite her chamber.” It ends on a note of despairing pathos: he should ignore the letter she troubled him with “some time ago” (he did, not to worry) to ask for “a collection of Coins” but now she says he should “not think about it” (no evidence he did anyway) “as the person I designed them for I shall probably never see again.” She plangently tries to reach him emotionally but and expresses how the social arrangements she must endure have repeatedly cut her off from others whose friendship she valued and thought valued hers.

A (not very accurate) image of a “white Persian cat” (angora), for a time a popular and prestigious cat to own in the 18th century (by Jean-Jacques Bachelier, 1724-1806): in Hancock’s letters he mentions in passing the murder of one Hastings bought for Eliza by someone angry possibly at Hastings or Hancock

My next two blogs from the Austen Papers will be on Hancock’s letters to Philadelphia from India. Before that though I will be posting about the papers I heard at the October 2014 Burney and JASNA conferences in Montreal.


Artist unknown, a painting of Philadelphia around the time of her initial return to England — she was clearly what was known as a “beauty”

… una donna senza storia …
… une femme sans histoire …

NPG 4445,Warren Hastings,by Sir Joshua Reynolds
Warren Hastings, by Joshua Reynolds (1732-1818); painted around the time of the above, their first return to England with Saul Tysoe Hancock (her husband of whom no image has survived)

Dear friends and readers,

For the past month (we have been going slowly) a group of us on Austen-l, Janeites and cc’d to other listservs have been reading the third chapter of Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh’s invaluable Austen Papers. We are near the end; it has taken us thus long because in order to begin to understand Hancock’s letters one must know the contemporary history of Indian colonialism, inside the state despotism and the East India. While we made a couple of startling inroads such as there was a devastating famine at the time of Hancock’s return to India (partly engineered by British and Dutch colonialist policies), we have not had the kind of sources or resources to understand Hancock’s context adequately.

One must also know the life-history and as far as if possible, character of his wife, George Austen’s sister, Jane Austen’s paternal aunt, Philadelphia Austen Hancock. Most of Saul Tysoe Hancock’s letters are addressed to her: all but a few to their legal daughter, Eliza Hancock, and to a family friend from Phila’s young years, Molly Freeman. Philadelphia is the elephant in the room, the silent presence. This preliminary sketch has to be regarded as a pendant to those I wrote on Philadelphia’s daughter, Eliza Hancock de Feuillide Austen, and her husband, Jane’s fourth brother, Henry Thomas Austen. I will follow this with a two-part blog on Hancock’s letters to Phila.

Sources include Jane Austen’s Catherine or the Bower; the letters of George and Cassandra (Steventon) and Hancock in the Austen Papers; Claire Tomalin’s scattered account in JA: A Life; Deirdre LeFaye’s life of Eliza Austen and Eliza’s letters; short lives of Warren Hastings in various articles in JStor and the Literature Resource Center (on-line at Mason); the four articles cited on Henry Austen; and the sources for the previous biographical blogs (family papers, biographies); mostly importantly for the French phase of Phila’s life, Michel Devert, “Le Marais de Gabbarret and de Barbotan, Bulletin de la Societe de Borda, 340 (190):331-350.


Anglo-Indian painting from the later 18th century: early image of the Raj

The first attempt to tell the history of Philadelphia candidly is in her niece Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Catherine, or the Bower (1792): we are told the heroine, Kitty, had had a friend who disaster had visited:

It was now two years since the death of Mr Wynne, and the subsequent dispersion of his family who had been left in great distress. They had been reduced to a state of absolute dependance on some relations, who though very opulent and very nearly connected with them, had with difficulty been prevailed on to contribute anything towards their Support. Mrs Wynne was fortunately spared the knowledge and participation of their distress, by her release from a painful illness a few months before the death of her husband. — The eldest daughter had been obliged to accept the offer of one of her cousins to equip her for the Indies, and tho’ infinitely against her inclinations been necessitated to embrace the only possibility that offered to her, of a Maintenance; Yet it was one, so opposite to all her ideas of Propriety, so contrary to her Wishes, so repugnant to her feelings, that she would almost have preferred Servitude to it, had Choice been allowed her — . Her personal Attractions had gained her a husband as she had arrived at Bengal, and she had now been married nearly a twelve month. Splendidly, yet unhappily married. United to a Man of double her own age, whose disposition was not amiable, and whose Manners unpleasing, though his Character was respectable. Kitty had heard twice from her freind since her marriage, but Letters were always unsatisfactory, and though she did not openly avow her feelings, yet every line proved her Unhappy. She spoke with pleasure of nothing, but of those Amusements which they had shared together and which could return no more, and seemed to have no happiness in veiw but that of returning to England again.

Philadelphia was born in 1730 (her brother George, 1731, Leonora 1732) to William and Rebecca Walter (nee Hampson) Austen; her mother died when she was 2 (at the birth of Leonora). There had been a baby girl who died before (1728-30). Rebecca had also had a son by her first husband, William Hampson Walter (1721-98). William remarried a second much older wife (by 13 years) and died himself 1736. Susanna Kelk was this woman’s name, she lives on in his house but refused to take his children; he had not revised his will (remember John Austen IV).

This is not a formula for producing a self-asssured identity. The biographers of Austen comment that Philadelphia must’ve had a hard time in the early years of her life.

From Andrew Davies’s film adaptation of Cleland’s Fanny Hill: Mrs Cole (Samantha Bond) greeting Fanny

We next find Philadelphia at age 15, apprenticed to a Covent Garden milliner, Hester Cole, a sum of 45 pounds paid for her to learn for 5 years how to make an sell hats. So while her brother George was placed on his way to become a gentleman at Oxford (so too Hastings whose biography resembles that of George Austen), Philadelphia is placed in a trade that bordered on respectability in London. A curious coincidence: 1748-49 was the year Fanny Hill was published and Phila begins life in what she assumes andis cited as a millinery shop – to a Mrs Cole of Covent Garden. Perhaps Cleland used the familiar shop’s name? Philadelphia had 2 fellow apprentices, Sarah and Rose. It was at this time a family connection whose names were Freeman were so kind to Phila as to elicit her husband Hancock’s continuing desire to reciprocate – we do not know what that kindness consisted of but it seems to have been to rescue her from spending her life as a seamstress.

Family history of this sub-branch of people:

George Austen’s mother, Rebecca had married as her first husband William Walter and as we’ve seen the son of this marriage, William Hampson Walter married Susanna Weaver and she and Cassandra Austen were correspondents and George Austen honored the half-brother connection (or step-brother). Philly their daughter became Eliza’s correspondent when they were young and as Mrs Whitaker sister Cassandra’s correspondent when they are much older. Well William Walter had a sister, Catherine Margaret who married John Cope Freeman. So here is where the Freeman family comes in. Hancock remains grateful to them for having helped Philadelphia when she was a seamstress;he writes to Molly. Catherine Margaret and John Cope Freeman had two children, son and daughter, whom they named precisely after themselves (doubtless to confuse us). John Cope Freeman Jr was the father of the Miss Freeman Hancock wrote to (Molly or Mary, or maybe Stella). The daughter, Catherine Margaret (II) married a Charles Stanhope. Ah. So now the Stanhope name comes in and they had a son, Philip Dormer Stanhope born 1753. He is the Stanhope who plagues Hancock’s life in his last months; he first married in 1780 Elizabeth Hughes.

When Phila’s five year apprenticeship was over, Philadelphia is recorded as off to India. It seems the process may have been set on foot by Francis, the same uncle (third son of Elizabeth Weller Austen, George’s uncle, Henry Austen’s great-uncle), acting for a client in the employ of East India company. Phila had to get permission from directors of the company and have names of friends in India to act as “surety.” For the trip round Africa and into Indian Ocean with landing on Bombay Castle she is responsible for herself; 2 years earlier Warren Hastings (orphaned like George Austen with his gifts recognized by those who had the care of him) had been plucked out of Westminster and sent by guardians to East India company clerkship. Hastings goes to Calcutta, Phila lands in Madras in 1752 (Chennai). A turmoil of violence erupting in that city at the time. Six months later Phila marries Saul Tysoe Hancock, that is to say February 1753, when he was 30 and had been in India for 5 years. Francis was Hancock’s lawyer too. No children were born to the couple.

In 1759 Saul and Phila Hancock move to Bengal where Hancock becomes friends with Hastings, who by then had become dedicated to the work and his career, had studied and understood something of India (though he was arrogant in his dealings with Indians). Hastings’s first wife died in 1759, an infant daughter lived but a week, a baby son George sent to England to George and Cassandra Austen. Think of Hastings as a CEO of a corporation, and Hancock a minor but centrally placed private contractors and operative in the corportion. Hastings has a town house in Calcutta, a garden at Belvedere. Phila seems to have known first wife — it was a small world of interconnected people. A private business partnership for two men, trading ventures in salt, timber, carpets, Bihar opium, rice for Madras, money made. Phila is now pregnant and a baby girl was born in 1761. She is given name of Hastings’s dead daughter (so Eliza named after Hastings’s first daughter) and Hastings becomes godfather. (Pride made Hancock brazen out situation says Tomalin). Hastings had built up spectacular fortune mostly from opium; 1764 Hastings pays 1500 pounds for himself, Hancocks, baby girl and Indian servants to return to England.

Jane’s father, George Austen had married Cassandra April 1764, and went almost immediately to the parsonage at Deane; so the Austens had the care of this precious Hastings baby right away. The Hancocks and Hastings arrived in England on June 16, 1765 and Hancock took a house in Norfolk Street, with Hastings nearby in Essex Street, off Strand. Hastings learns baby George died of diptheria the previous autumn – of course George and Cassandra desolated. Could we expect anything else?

In the Austen Papers (Chapter 2: Steventon) letters we saw that Phila visited in 1766 with Hancock and was there at the birth of George, Hancock a godfather. Hancock met Leonora in London and took a kindly interest. (Leonora lived on to 1784; Elizabeth Hinton died, Hinton was decemt but she was not considered eligible to go to her brother George, notice. Dropped from family including by Phila). Next two years George borrows from Hancock, to the tune of 228 pounds. Hancock leaves to make more money in 1768.

A vignette of Philadelphia by Cassandra Austen to Susannah Walter in a letter of August 1770:

Sister Hancock staid with us only a few days, she had more courage than you had, and set out in a post-chaise with only her little Bessy, for she brought neither Clarinda or Peter with her, but believe me she sincerely repented, before she got to her journey’s end, for in the middle of Bagshot heath, the postilion discovered that he had dropped the trunk from off the chaise. She immediately sent him back with the horses to find it, intending to sit in the chaise till he returned, but was soon out of patience and began to be pretty much frighted, so began her walk to the ‘Golden Farmer’ about two miles off, where she arrived half dead with fatigue, it being in the middle of a very hot day. when she was a little recovered she recollected she had left al lthe reset of her things (amongst which were a large parcel of India letters, which she had received the night before, and some of them she had not read) in the chaise with the door open, she sent a man directly after them and got them all safe and after some considerabel time the driver came with the trunk and without any more misfortune got to Bolton Street about nine o’clock. She is now settled in her cottage near Cobham, Surrey. The lettes brought good accounts of both my brother Hancock and Mr Hastings.

We come to our one and only letter from Hastings to Phila; by this time Hancock’s letters have recorded considerable financial help to the Hancocks, and we have seen that Hastings gives financial help, returned to India and took up with Mrs Imhoff, the wife of another partner (a pattern here) – Phila’s first response was to offer to return to India. Hancock forbids it and then now and again reports about Mrs Imhoff and Hastings’s relationship. Philadelphia was clearly out.

A summary of the letter: Fort St George, 31st January, 1772 (p. 58, the Austen Papers): Hastings is on his way back to India; as opposed to Hancock, while it was to make more money, he had a high position awaiting him. We have to recall there was an imposed famine in Bengal, because the one book I have omits all these realities. In the early part of his time there Hastings seems to have been successful — for the East India company and himself, with the usual information about improvements to economic structure and judicial trials (for efficiency), some respect for certain kinds of Muslim law Hastings achieved — but later he found the office far too problematic and his taking of huge sums (especially some bullying of famously local begums) come out of this. Upper class lives are a tiny part of what is being experienced here.

Tellingly (not in the letter) Hastings was having his trouble with Junius at this juncture, which we know about because Junius was famous anonymous writer who wrote for reform strongly: he is today thought to be Philip Francis; well Francis was in India at the time and Hastings and Francis conflict over the spoils so to speak (and appointments) to the point they actually duelled: later in England at the trial Francis was one of the key witnesses against Hastings.

Philadelphia and her daughter Eliza were among those people Hastings sent money from India for — she is regarded as part of this demi-monde milieu that Hancock seems so to loathe and does not want Betsy to become any part of. Now Hancock’s position as a surgeon (not a sinecure as he complains bitterly and one he has to pay taxes on) kept him at a geographic distance from Hancock He has little time for Hancock and basically interacts with Woodman, his brother-in-law, close to George Austen, and disburser of funds and advice to Philadelphia.

This letter cannot be readily understood on its literal surface well beyond the actual relationship of Philadelphia and Hastings. On more diurnal matters, it’s interesting he says he is writing her late at night, reserving to himself this private time to talk to her (as it were) by letter. There is an intimate tone here: he regrets parting from Fort St George and the Council Board there, a British stronghold by the sea, a sto-pover:

Hastings is not looking forward to Bengal — Hastings was by the way a highly educated man in the language of the country. He is sending yet another child, a little Watson — someone should look to see if this name shows up on George Austen’s school roster. Maderia, a painting on dooruars, a fashionable fad at thetime, chintz.

The letter was prompted by other considerations too. We come to the business of the letter: he hopes “our concerns” will come to some conclusion now.” It’s his going which enables this – the increase in revenue to him. He does not have the difficulties Hancock does. If Hancock is like a small private contractor of a corporation. Hastings is one of the official CEOs. He says Hancock’s health has held out and it is the dry air of Madra. Hancock is not keen on Madras’s air as we have seen — he suggests it’s very humid. I know who I believe. Then an emotional goodbye of sorts to Betsy and herself. I suggest it’s easier to break firmly from Philadelphia and let her know it once he has left the Austen grounds of their relationship. Future letters show her abject and him referring to Woodman.

Hastings then thanks Phila for some disinterested act of friendship — she did some favor, achieved something in the patronage line. He will write again on this subject — but we lack that letter — it was not saved. I suggest this too was the cause of this letter. Again Betsy should be reminded to love him as her godfather and mother’s sincere and faithful friend.

It startles me to think of the great fuss made about a non-existent conversation over slavery in MP, though I don’t discount the business in Antigua, Emma has far more on slavery explicitly. The passages in Catherine or the Bower are part of this larger world the Austens themselves fed off of (in their naval sons, and their banking son) as well as Wentworth’s abilty to make money off the empire. These are the real contexts. A propos of these letters they are not annotated because they deal with real sore content the Austen family is not keen on, and Hancock and India this chapter takes us far more into the direct terrain than any other. I recommend Smith’s Ethelinde too for the light it sheds on Edmund Bertram’s unwilling to take a position in the navy or other charming occupations Mary Crawford sees as money-making and prestigious.

There is one (eloquent) letter from Philadelphia to Hastings, written well after the above letter from Hastings to he in the Austen Papers — categorized as part of another subset of the family doings; I have printed it complete in a second blog on Philadelphia). This separation of her letters into categories that do not directly reflect her life shows how little her individual personality is paid attention to or her story. It is, as Jane Austen, suggested significant and characteristic of the stories of women. In the letter she is hesitant and apologetic. She is worries lest she offend him because he has told her not to bother him directly. We cannot see what might be her real feelings (anger, hurt? indifference to him by this time) because her need and anxiety about his response to her is too great. It does show the woman who lost her poise in a carriage accident recorded by Cassandra Austen; the woman who could not make up her mind where to live in the 1770s.

In 1776 George and Cassandra Austen in London visited Phila and Betsy, with word that Hancock had died (November 1775), she afflicted, he died penniless. Woodman: “all his effects will not clear his debts here.” We see from letters by George and Cassandra that Phila cannot make up her mind where to live precisely (with her daughter), loses her poise (and consequently nearly some valued goods) in being forced to roam around the countryside with an entourage of babies, children, child-minders …

1773 Hastings had given Betsy 5000 pounds (he was Governor of Bengal and is referred to as “the Governor” by Hancock in his later lettrs); in 1775 Hastings gave another 5000. Everyone sworn to secresy. Woodman was also Hastings’s borther-in-law. Woodman and George Austen trustees.

A few months later Phila receives 3500 from Woodman, another sum of 5000 from “bill on Ind. Co” She opens an account with Messrs Hoare & Co, her brother’s bankers. George also continues to repay money owed to his sister (from Hancock)

One should remark (as Tomalin does) that there was no attempt to send Eliza away to a school. I see this as to Phila’s credit and we may assume Eliza did have good masters, was dressed well, rode and the rest of Hancock’s curriculum for her. Pace Hancock though connections were kept up with George and Cassandra Austen in Hampshire and the Walters in Kent.


Chateau du Marais, a Barbotan — where Feuillide took Eliza and her mother to live

Hancock’s death mattered: it was after his death that Phila moves to France with Eliza – no longer called Betsy.

Phila is 46 and Eliza 13 when Hancock died. A striking and pathetic glimpse of Philadelphia when the news finally reached her that Hancock had died: Woodman to Hastings (Woodman was Hastings’s brother-in-law and agent): the “story of your success” is

dampened by the “unwelcome news of poor Hancock’s death by a letter from Mrs Bowers [Hancock's housekeeper? a member of his household in India], which Mrs Hancock received on Friday last: we feel much for her, & endeavour to support her under the affliction. Her brother and sister Austen were there when she received the letter, which has helped to comfort her, as it adds much to her distress that she had not received any other letter from India. the Salisbury having put into Cork in Ireland, only part of her letters are yet come up” (Austen Papers, p 82)

On the 20th of June Woodman wrote Hastings to confirm that Hastings’ letter to Philadelphia had arrived “confirming the death” while Woodman finds that Hancock was so badly in debt what he left could scarce clear “his debts here.”

Two years later they go to France: the man Phila now became involved with was Sir John Lambert, an Anglo-French baronet. Why? It’s assumed that their position was not comfortable: they did not have huge sums to silence everyone. Here a fragment of Mary Crawford’s mind reflects the Hancock women: she says with large enough parties, a house, and enough spent Maria Bertram if married to Henry Crawford would find a world to belong to. But you have to throw a lot of money at this.

This would be 1778 and in a note Tomalin says Phila’s account at Hoare’s “shows many transfers of money to Sir John Lambert during 1778; there’s also a letter of credit to Lambert at Paris for 200 pounds – that means he gets 200 pounds. Phila and Eliza were in Germany and then Brussels in June 1778 – and then Paris. Much that we know about this visit comes from Eliza’s letters to her cousin which we’ll be getting to in these Austen papers eventually.

The survival of Eliza’s letters from France to her cousin is attributed to her mother saving them.

Eliza is 19 when she marries Feuillide (age 30) in 1782 and she herself says it was not a love match – she was bound to follow ‘advisors of rank and title” – in that sentence she is excusing herself. Lambert was called by Eliza “le chevalier de Lambert” – he had French relatives. Capot de Feuillide was not a count; this was a misrepresentation; he is said to have been known as handsomest officer in the army; attended balls.

Woodman to Hastings in a letter “They [the de Feuillide family] seem already desirous of draining her [Phila] of every shilling she has. Phila defended her decisions; “it is “entirely to her satisfaction, the gentleman having great connections and expectations.” Great expectations – remember Dickens’s great novel’s title. Phil is recorded as lending money to Feuillide for his draining projects too. How much not said. Eliza is the conduit for money wrenched from the abysmally vulnerable of India.

Lambert was involved in the affairs of the Capot de Feuillide (to give this 30 year old man his full name) for years after Eliza’s death – for Henry Austen does business with Lambert’s heirs after her death. Again Tomalin cites amounts paid to Lambert – 370 pounds between Oct and Dec 1778, more again in 1780

After Lambert got out of Phila what he could and vanished, she seems to cave in (as it were) and spend the rest of her life as mother, mother-in-law, grandmother. This is from within as she had the wherewithal to do otherwise. She reminds me of Madame de Genlis up to this point: both not mothered, both married up to gain security, the husbands of both not high enough so that they must look to another more powerful man and do; both became devoted to their children (with yet more ambivalent actions by Genlis) out of memories of what they had not known and known. The daughters of both show devotion to them and to their own children, in Eliza’s case to a disabled grandchild of the powerful man; but Madame de Genlis can lead her own life once the threat of the guillotine is removed; Philadelphia had not the connections of Genlis and she had had it. Genlis seems to have bones of steel inside her where others have mere calcium,and she never lost her grim determined hypocritical performative abilities. These Philadelphia never had (it seems to me if she had she might not have lost Hastings).

Perhaps she’d had enough after Lambert and what she saw was the result of Eliza’s first marriage (Feuillide’s house, land projects, mistress, ceaseless desire for money); I see her as tiring of the struggle and letting Eliza take over with herself as advisor at most. It is said that one of the many causes of cancer is stress; I’ve read these hinting analyses of Austen’s fatal illness which suggest stress was an element, especially after there was no legacy, to be no relief when the uncle died. Against that cancer repeated itself in Eliza and there does seem to have been genes inherited in the family which made for severely disabled children.

In 1784 records show Eliza and Phila traveling south to live in a romantic chateau in southern France, 450 miles from Paris, sparse population; Feuillide’s mother lived with them. (No records of mistress until he returns to Paris to try to wrest his property back.) His mother died at the end of the winter; “fever’ everywhere (marshes remember, perhaps malaria). Phila lives with her daughter and son-in-law, Eliza upset by miscarriage and – Feuillide building a chateau on his northern lands which Eliza enthusiastic about. James Ausen plans a visit. 1785 – but Feuillide, Phil a and Eliza go to Pyrenees spa very favored by aristocratic and rich bourgeois French – Bagneres-de-Bigorre (Sophie Cottin went there for her health and the French social world doubtless too)

The final return to England:

Gravestone of Phila, Capot, Eliza …

Eliza pregnant again and Feuillide wants child born in the UK especially as Hastings has returned; May 1786 Phila and Eliza set off on bad roads, into a ship across the channel, baby born in London June 1786. Named what? You guessed it: Hastings. (Eliza named after Hasting’s first dead daughter.)

Eliza will not give baby up when it does not develop as expected and her mother is with her. Now there is plan for Henry to accompany Eliza to France; Eliza reported as richly dressed. No one reports on Phila except she is with daughter at Tunbridge Wells.

The next autumn (1787-88) was when theatricals start occurring in Steventon – we must assume Phila there too. Eliza much older than her boy cousins who are rivals. Phila may be helper to Cassandra Austen — as women did, and friends too. They keep up with Walters (Eliza writes cousin)

Phila is not individually mentioned until her illness and death in 1792 (age 62). Phila had a “hard and painful swelling on one of her breasts;” a mountebank (but no one then knew what to do – today we are not much on) woman doctor hired; pain was reduced. Eliza stays with her mother in Orchard street that summer of 1792. Edward visited on his way to Lake district (remmber he lives the life of an heir). Phila in “acute pain” in August; Eliza talks of her amendment (how people hope on), Eliza calls in one Dr Roops; October Phila confined to bed, severe attack Laudanum prescribed. Eliza in a state of distress “bordering on distraction. Terrible autumn. I can imagine it.

Christmas 1792-93 Phila still alive with ”violent cough, no appetite, disordred bowels.” She is recorded as telling Eliza her complaint is “getting better” by Eliza in a letter and Eliza does not believe this.. She has Hasting son her hands – he is 5. Boy cannot keep upright. Count attacked by angry mob at his property; new house pillaged (this commonly happened during first English civil war too – 1642-47), draining projects cease. He goes to Paris and is recorded as owing Phila 6500 pounds.

Phila dies Feburary in Hampstead. Tomb: “Philadelphia wife of Tysoe Saul Hancok” whose “moral excellence united the praise of every Christian virtue” commended for her pious resignation to “severest trials of a tedious and painful malady.” Feuillide is there and takes his wife to Bath, but then the fool return to Paris lest his property be forfet – those who survived knew better than to do this. It was hopeless. The thing to have done was join the emigres developing an army to attack the French republic.

Eliza lives through a very hard time from the time of her first miscarriage on. Some bright spots: love of mother, love of child, enjoys theatricals, husband does show up. We have nothing of Phila’s inner life but a widow whose first love (Hastings) remarried and who was otherwise exploited by men but her brother (George), with Hastings paying people to try to advise her from afar.

Wm Hodges (hired by Hastings) View of Calcutta from Fort William, 1781:

The life of Philadelphia Austen Hancock as revealed in the letters of others (she is silent woman) show the continuing marginality of many of the Austens, who hovered uncertainly on the periphery of the wealthy world. Worry about money seems to have run in much of the family. In Philadelphia’s case, she was forced to go India to seek a husband, and married one 20 years older than herself. According to the introduction, the family tried to move back to England but couldn’t make it financially, so Tysoe returned to India to try to make a second fortune there. The family he left behind included Philadelphia and the daughter Eliza. He buys utterly into the values that life is not worth living without high status and that is his ruination and in a way hers too.

In his first letters, Hancock exhibits continual anxious stress about expenses, appears thwarted in business ventures and laments that he may never be able to return to England. I am reminded strongly of Burnett’s The Making of the Marchioness, written 130 years later, but still describing the same situation–the disenfranchised poor relation forced unwilling to live in India and to make a life there, no matter the longing to be in England. Once again, we see the cruelties of primogeniture, and not incidentally, the added pressure to exploit the Indians because of the concentration of wealth in just a few hands, leaving the English who might otherwise have done well in England to wrench fortunes out of other lands. We feel Tysoe’s unhappiness. He longs to be with his wife, laments the huge expenses he bears in India and sees few opportunities. He tries to control her behavior to force her to educate Eliza so as to find her an upper class husband and thus provide him with prestige by proxy. But over the years, he does not make the money he wants to be able to insist on their living a fully upper class luxurious life; he dreads any return, has perhaps gone native to some extent, and does not want to show himself out of shame: he regards himself as a failure in every way. He knows Eliza is not his and others do too. He scolds his wife irritably so that we see how hard pressed she is, but also registers her loyalty to him. It may be said he drove her to marry her daughter to the false count. She did not live to see her daughter’s second wise marriage to the kind and upright Henry Austen and good life with him in London.

Often the magic figure of 600 pounds per annum comes up. Hancock does not want Phila to manage on less. He is fiercely opposed to any drop in the class ladder he envisages for Phila and Betsy. Money, money, money, the endless concern, threads through these letters to Phila. (Much more on Hancock in my next blogs on the Austen Papers.)

As to any kind of in-depth portrait of Philadelphia (which could be attempted for her daughter, though LeFaye has not done this), we can say little about her from the records I’ve seen, but that hers was a desperate flotsam and jetsam life and she won the deep affection of her daughter. She was taught no system of values or norms whereby she would want to express her inner life or have feelings of her own, never mothered, hardly fathered. The letters to Hancock show their marriage was a bargain whereby he said he would provide for her and on those grounds she married him. She may have hoped Hastings would love her, but it seems she lacked the social cunning he felt a mistress or wife of his would need; I surmise she was either not smart enough or too smart for his taste. Perhaps she was too dependent in nature. She exhibited wary judgement while in England and with the money Hancock provided and Hastings through his agents, she lived a conventional life of a gentry mother bringing up her daughter genteelly. After Hancock’s death, she showed herself susceptible to unscrupulous exploiters. Not surprising: perhaps Lambert exhibited concern and helped her with kindness and grace (something Hancock does not understand in the least). In her last years she turned to her daughter; during her decline and illness she was with her brother and his wife as well.

Her fate was shaped by the death of her parents when she was young; then by her having had an affair and child by a powerful man when she had no power. Everyone knew who was Eliza’s father, but it was equally in everyone’s interest at the time not to acknowledge Hasting’s parentage in any open way too — no drop in legitimate status either: there is the determination to keep the 10,000 pounds a secret and the poignant letter from Philadelphia herself to Hastings saying how she leaves him alone (as I said above, I will add that one from later in the Austen Papers). Hastings preferred another married woman who had been married to an underling. So she allures people who want money and yet is stigmatized, a semi-pariah at the same time. She may have been persuaded to marry her daughter to a French count thinking that would give them status. It did not because of his motives and nature.

Nokes opens his biography with Hancock’s letters and the story of his life — but no one tries to tell the life of Philadelphia. This has been one of the first attempts to bring the documents we have together to tell her life. Jane Austen thought it important: it’s one of the first she tries to tell after the Juvenilia — and the few paragraphs in Catherine, or the Bower, bear witness to the initial crucial phase of Phila’s life.


Emma Thompson, with her mother, Phyllida Law

Dear friends and readers,

Last night I watched on PBS Great Performances Emma Thompson steal all attention in a concert performance of Sweeney Todd from Lincoln Center (I have yet to discover who was the director) with Byrn Terfel as Sweeney, astonishing if you consider his extraordinary voice against her comic caterwauling. Entertaining (vivid, full of a sense of witty there-ness), it nonetheless did not match the dark and somber — and wildly exhilarating version I saw years ago (16 years ago now, Signature Theater’s opening show) directed by Eric Schaeffer where Todd is a man in an insane rage over what the world has done to him, and the magnificent Donna as dark and saturnine as he is mad, and somehow wildly comic, with blood everywhere, and continual death — but this version does make sense of all the music equally. The darker versions don’t know what to do about the lyrical couple. This Lincoln Center director had re-conceived the piece to be more like a Victorian music hall, partly to accommodate Thompson’s vein of quizzical nervous comedy. The lovers’ duets are done in a analogous vein of an ironic comedy that defuses deeper disquiet, and leaves Sweeney more humanly accessible. It was striking too how Lucy now the mad beggar also emerged as more important, a kind of opposite to Mrs Loveit. You might say this was a woman’s Sweeney Todd as Todd’s daughter became an icon of escape on the stage.

Emma Thompson as Mrs Loveit in the Lincoln Center production of Sweeney Todd: her nervous comedy reminded me of other of her performances and was made to fit perfectly

All this to introduce a transcript of selections from an interview about screenplay writing between Thompson and Charles Brock, a central topic of which is her screenplay for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility, directed by Ang Lee.

Jeremy Brock began by asking about her father, Eric Thompson who wrote the playlets for the Magic Roundabout. She said her father would watch the pictures of the Magic Roundabout – and write words for pictures. In screenplay writing you write words for the moving pictures. He did not write for children as if they were separate human beings but for adults and children as of one species.

The Magic Roundabout (Jim and I have watched these together; they are intelligent children’s entertainment, piquant to an adult)

She started writing and performing sketches when she was 16: monologues and sketches from Footlights was what she grew up with. Andy LaTour and she were doing stand up comedy – musicals in Australia – Al Fresco in Manchester – earning money doing sketch shows – and they then went to Edinburgh.

She got a commission to write a sketch show in the 1980s (1986), which she regards as an important signal in her life because it was such a massive failure –- yes it was all political, against that right de seigneur as practiced in modern film-making, against dieting (auto-cannibalism). No one seemed to watch and the reviews said “this is very man-hating.” She felt she loved men, and told herself this is what it feels like to be here writing shooting scripts as a woman now. So she never wrote another monologue or another sketch. It was a violent experience: she had wanted to be Lily Tomlinson.

She: men’s jokes are something this lead to an ejaculation at the end. Women’s comedy is more circular: big laugh, little laugh her, and then big laugh. Goes hand in hand with orgasmic nature.

She then suggested that screenplay writing is a kind of negotiation with a film industry.

On her two best-known successful screenplays become films:

Branagh and Thompson in a typical moment from Dead Again

How did Sense and Sensibility come to her? “It came to me because of that sketch — the sketch she was so attackd for: they showed that series in the US on some obscure channel.” Lindsay Doran produced Dead Again, and as Emma’s friend, Doran thought that’s the woman I want to adapt a Jane Austen novel. Thompson said she’d have preferred Persuasion. “I’ve never adapted anything … I’ll have a go.” She is told to begin by dramatizing the whole book, see what works, and then take out what she wants and link everything together through tiny connectives. Thompson’s first script was 600 pages long and the task was to distill.

“You end up with an imaginative invention of your own. First you adapt the whole thing and much of the language in S&S is arcane.” Thompson said several times she writes her first drafts by hand. She went through 17 drafts over five years for the 1995 S&S. She was not doing this all the time –- she produced one draft while they were shooting Much Ado About Nothing affected by experience. Doran said throw it out and go back to the one before. Everyone needs a good editor – really good at knowing what’s good and what isn’t – editing in film is highly regarded . She, Emma, couldn’t write a decent screenplay without a good editor. Unless you are in conversation with someone you can’t get to final draft – it’s a collaborative writing.

What was nature of Elinor emotionally as seen by Austen and then translated by Thompson, realized by Lee – “Emma’s language is arcane [she kept saying this], late 1700s. What Elinor comes to stand for is the honor of a man,” not the same as virginal intactness. “Elinor Dashwood holds to honor and duty;” Ang Lee has the same line (as above scene), in Eat Drink Man Woman: “What do you know of my heart?” meaning also, “How does a woman act to be honorable? What is honor to her? What her methods?” (Is integrity to tell the truth is about it? yes, I think so.) What’s interesting here is Thompson gives weight and gravitas to Elinor’s decision to keep Lucy’s secret, to support Marianne. They become not just steps in a romance.

Thompson with Kate Winslet as Marianne

Emma Thompson went from there to ask and to answer the question, What is a female hero? Where is she? What does she do? She suggested we need to define and see female heroism existing in the ever flowing river of human behavio … in details Detail of human life acts of heroism stitched into last flow. This reminds me of George Eliot’s praise of Dorothea’s life at the close of Middlemarch, but she went on to say for her it’s not enough to know you’ve protected others and helped them by your little acts of heroism. She’d also to be the one who goes out and be the active hero – she instanced Clint Eastwood.

On the Jane Austen society: “she’s very protected,” and her adherents easily “excited.” They had been no picture since 1940: she means movies, reinforcing this idea that what’s on TV doesn’t count. Thompson told someone in the JASNA organization that she had cut Nancy Steele and the person walked away – the woman was so appalled.

She then talked of Elinor and Edward as characters and said she saw in them the potential for a connection to contemporary relationships. Edward and Elinor (she and Hugh Grant) had to lay in a deep humorous understanding of one another, a shared sense of honor. There is a frisson of sexuality embedded in Austen indirectly and as screenplay writers you write it into the script directly. The script is the muse for the performer; you leave open for such a thing to have happen offstage: our problem is how little we know of Austen from her letters since so many were destroyed: I did like how she said “I want to kill Cassandra for burning much of JA’s correspondence. The books show selfish people getting what they want, they stay selfish, Lucy is extremely selfish and carries on; that is the realism of Jane Austen.

So how do you approach a classic novel: you must bring your own feeling to the work. The way it’s done is dramatize the book. Go through it dramatizing as you go, and then start to cut. You eventually recognize some keystone, some central crucial incident or theme and build a structural integrity around that. This keystone enables the director to navigate the filming the film, or it’s a loadstone attracting everything to it like a magnet. You build around keystone if it’s taken away, the arch of the film’s arrangement of scenes will fall. It has these angles to it. The screenplay holds water like a balloon – a good one will carry on holding its water, some water might move and change shape but not burst.

Great screenplays – making a screenplay to film — after dramatizing the whole book, you take out the bits that don’t work. You have to cut the bits that don’t work. Essential in screenplay you’ve adapted it to film, I can see it, it’s implicit, there already, so I don’t need to have that scene

In thinking of her screenplay for Sense and Sensibility, she remembers Howards End where Margaret talks so famously of only connect. Everyone said and Jim Ivory too, we’ve got to have it in. Well theye shot it, and in the movie it wasn’t there. We didn’t need it; the idea of only connecting was watched all movie long.

Adaptation process is double: there’s book to screenplay and screenplay to film. Editing is the final rewrite of the film where people see what the film doesn’t need. Now when you excise something you can make juxtaposition of the two remaining scenes much more powerful. That is key to power and effect.

About ellipses, it’s a matter of taking out everything; then what’s left really pings out because of whaty ou have taken away. And performance art all to do with energy

The ending of a film should ideally be like a magnet — scenes, characters and words – all are piles of iron and then pulled to end into the magnet. All the odd filings have gone whosh and you go out filled up with energy – magnet’s your ending.

Elinor’s last scene with Edward is the last scene of S&S for real (so she discounts that marital montage orgasm the studio insisted on) – she’s all about withholding, well I wrote it all first and saw how much you can withhold. Now sometimes people take out too much; you must be able to follow – she’s accused by sister of having no feeling, but she’s nothing, she can do about it nothing as everything having do with being active is against what she has been taught. Thompson said that “every time I read it, I cried so I didn’t change it.” That last scene was written quite early. When Grant began to rehearse it with her, he asked “Are you going to do that cry all the way through my fucking speech. She answered “Yes, because it’s funny, it’ll work I promise you it’ll work. He all right, I’ll do it,” and it did work.

Long languors, they can be written or just performed. This is not to deny that stage directions are very important –- they need to be witty, well written – cursory or banal. “Then I am willing to read bloody dialogue — every single word must be the most beautiful things. It has to be as perfect as it can be and then you do hand it over to other people’s art” (acting, production design, costume, directing).

Later she was asked, Where do you keep the box of drafts? In the attics – she does not go back and reread – she ddid find the box of drafts for S&S and was asked by Jeremy to bring them to the interview. She begins by writing by hand, and goes through 3 or 4 drafts by hand. She becomes more neat – nearer all the tie –- you have to copy by hand so you get to know your text when you barely do copying and pasting.

Turning away from Sense and Sensibility gradually Brock asked her, “To what extent do you bring actors’ antenna to writing and the journey. She referred him to her comments on the DVD feature accompanying The Remains of Day. She will tend to act all the roles as she writes. She will not write something that cannot be spoken. You test that continually. “You can learn bad writing. Good writing goes into your system. Such a joy, such a pain. When it’s good, you are so grateful.”


She turned to her other well-known script: Nanny McPhee. How did she come to write a screenplay for this child’s book? Well, hovering in the room which has got best of the books in my house, Matilda by Christiana Brown, she came to read it again and came to think Brown was writing for herself: the book was about an anarchic change from an ugly to a beautiful nanny. She phoned Lindsay Duncan (who had suggested S&S to her). Thompson thought it’d be so much easier: 9 years later she had a script which took 7 years in development. When you come to make it into a film, you realize there’s no story. You also you can’t have 32 children. It was hell to adapt.

They had thought it would be this lovely simple story – “we’re going to be so happy” … instead it was “I can’t go on … “ Thompson says “You want to make something good and precious and good for an important audience — children — and find there is no story in them, no structure.” It was while she was staying in the Hotel Avalon – “Hitler’s favorite hotel by the way” she says, she began to see that it was a western about a kind of war. Nanny McPhee is about subversion. In the conversation she keeps bringing up Clint Eastwood who seems to me irrelevant; but she does have the archetypal pattern of the western right: the hero comes into a situation where order has broken down; he restores order and has to leave as he is the outsider. She made Mcphee into this cowboy-like character; she subverted a children’s film genre to allow Nanny McPhee to say what it is and then leave. So she was repeating her father’s ploy: again her father wrote for people not for special breed of human beings. You don’t want children to drown themselves or open a vein but you want to show them some truths.

Thompson as P.L. Travers in Saving Mr Banks: she wrote stories for children which had some truths


Asked what is the relationship between screenwriting and acting, she answers “There is no science,” and quoted choreographer Agnes de Mille, “Living is a form of not being sure not knowing what next or how. The artist never entirely knows; we guess we may be wrong but we take leap after leap in the dark. Good,huh?”

Exurberantly drunk one year at the Golden Globes

The audience applauded and then they took questions.

A woman identified herself as a playwright, and explained she was trying to get her screenplay realized. How do you approach production companies? (Can she invite you to her new play? — this was ignored.) Thompson: “There’s no science. You have to be in the context – and then resilient, persistent and solipsistic. You have to send it to people and turn up. You also need to be sure it’s good.” Thompson said “I have had scripts rejected – and later seen the underlying material she wrote up made with another script.”

A woman said, “when you want a strong female character, at some poin tyou have to make it a male; where do you stop to keep the character a female?” Thompson denied her central assumptions: first of all, great dialogue won’t necessarily tell you if speaker is a man or woman. Thompson said there is not this hard and fast difference at all; our brains not sufficiently different; then education and nurture starts to twist and beat us out of our shapes. We are gendered through culture and culture changes.

A woman asked, “How do you know when your re-write is finished, “It” — all done. Thompson: “It changes with each project. You can have a situation and a director drops out and hey suddenly say this actor or that needs to be a man – there’s that. “You get your studio notes – good and bad, irritating; you must buckle down and suck it up and make compromises I think. That’s as far as I can get it for now … leave it to cook and go back to it a month later …” Thompson said “I edit, I am a fierce editor; I like getting rid of things. You can only know up to to a point and then you have to leave it.” She has to earn a living between drafts and she can as an actress (and celebrity – she did not mention that.) She doesn’t write a screenplay for 7 years and do nothing else, she can’t afford to do that.”

No good questions from audience so Brock said “Tone, pace, touch and feel; you to apply all of that, and it is an educated process; you learn while doing. Advice is “don’t panic. Let it be.”

“Who’s her role model?” Says Thompson, “You must be honest in these things. My role model is my mother (Phyllida Law), a great writer, my first editor. I did my first stand up for her in Croyden (age 25, 60 quid). “I would do pieces for my mum in the kitchen and she edit them.” Long after her father died. Both parents could and can write.

How do you find balance of what to keep in and out. She says you can’t know. She told of a recent film about a miscarriage of justice. A father wrongly imprisoned and has died – many scenes cut; only when editing was it seen the cutting of playlets would only make the script better.

Brock made an effort to find a male questioner and found one. I don’t remember if he or the next questioner asked, “Do you go in knowing how story will end … or is it during flow that you get the ending? Thompson said most adaptations end with the ending of the book (it’s remembered by audiences). You have to have this writer’s stuff to work with, do the knitting, spin the wool, if you have nothing to work on, just write. Just sit and write – this is the only advice that works for her. (I can’t do that, I must make each section as good as I can before going on to the next, even when I have break throughs and suddenly write and write.)

Someone asked, “How often do you write a character with an actor in mind,”and “how does that work? Thompson replied that she “never gets the actors she wants.” She pulled back from that joke to saye sometimes she does – she sometimes does write with a specific actor in mind. “It’s very helpful; ” in the case of Hugh Grant, she knew he would be able to do Edward, so 90% of work of directing was achieved; directing is also done in casting. But then “Not always she does not always have people in mind.”

I omitted from my transcription how Thompson came back several times to say her mother was her best reader and inspiration. How she read her early writing to her mother, how her mother accompanied her sometimes early in her career, how her mother is still there for her and her sister, Sophie Thompson. Phyllida Law never remarried.

Emma’s sister, Sophie Thompson, also a superb actress, with their mother

Thompson’s close: William Wyler said “your screen play needs to be all good scenes, no bad scenes and one great scene.”

I hope readers find this as instructive as I have.

The fake come-on (Jane Seymour) with which the film opens

The innocent heroine (Keri Russell) taken in — note the trope of the heroine as narrator and writer of diaries (something seen thoughout the Austen film canon)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve been meaning to write about this film for some time; I saw it a couple of months ago now when I was watching several new Austen movies since I had had to put down my book project down two summers ago now. I try to keep an open mind on the Austen film canon, but find that most of the time either Austen is kept to sufficiently or the intermediary book or script is sufficiently intelligent and kept to so there is much worth while in the movie — as long as to some extent they keep crucial aspects of the original book. This is true of the 2013 Scents and Sensibility. They keep a lot of the original story and character oppositions and themes. Clueless, the Bridget Jones movies, the Jane Austen Book Club and Death comes to Pemberley are of the second kind. Without an intermediary book, Lost in Austen while apparently departing from the P&P radically, when watched with attention is clearly a critique of some of Austen’s attitudes in Pride and Prejudice as well as showing up gaps or difficulties in the book itself. I suggest Austenland meant to do the same and is a daring kind of venture.

Here Keri is meant to evoke Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz — before she leaves Kansas
The problem with Austenland (I decided tentatively) is it’s at that stage of production you sometimes hear about in franker features. In discussing how it took 6 (!) years to produce From Prada to Nada, the directors and screenplay writers said at one point they had a completed movie but knew it was very weak; their fundamental idea had not worked in the way they thought it could dramatically and they felt they had to reconceive the work, this time with far more emphasis on the Hispanic background of the appropriation. Funding was needed and to get all the actors back together again, but they managed it.
This is a movie released at a stage when it is a draft. Until the romantic abject coda ending which made nonsense of all that had gone before that Jerusha Hess and Shannon Hale (director and screenplay writers) had a movie like Lost in Austen in mind. All the decor in the movie identified as “Austen” like was absurd, rather like some Hallmark card at Christmas time by someone who knows little of Christmas objects (what they are for). The idea a sarcastic one: the ignorance of the vast fan base about the 18th century is the point. The problem here was to come out clearly on this you have to insult the audience. The second important inference is that if you went to a theme park and had any brains you would soon see you are being fleeced and all around you actors who despise you and are using you. That’s what happens when our heroine Jane Hanes (Keri Russell, a popular “good girl” ingenue) shows up.

Jane’s incorrectly dressed: her poke bonnet belongs to an American cowboy movie

The problem here is these ideas are tough (tougher than critiquing an 18th century novel and romance as is done in Lost in Austen) and the film-makers also wanted light and screwball comedy. 

Georgia King as pouting Lady Amelia Heartright (her heart’s in the right place) flooring Darcy as she tries to pretend she’s got a cell phone
A further complication is what movie-makers think is comic in our anti-feminist pop culture so one of the two actresses, Jennifer Coolidge as Miss Elizabeth Charming, who takes this tour is dressed like some version of Dolly Parton and enacts the stupidity of Judy Holiday’s characters: to soften this she is made good-natured if occasionally sullen since she realizes she is not enjoying herself.

Her clothes way too tight

Pretending “perfect unconcern” like Austen’s Lydia

The result is imbecility. The movie is racialist too because Ricky Whittle as Captain East was done up as a very sexy African-American or African-English man hired to be a Willoughby or sexy-male taking advantage of the secondary comic kittenish heroine, Lady Amelia

She’s not altogether against being beat up

Behind this was the myth that black men are sexier.
A few good actors were wasted. JJFeild who can speak older English and can do romance was Mr Henry Nobley a cross between a feeble version of Mr Knightley (as he has nothing to do) and a withdrawn Darcy figure:


James Callis who can be very funny (in the Bridget Jones movies he is the male friend) was thrown away as an effete gay (homosexual) man, again pandering to stereotypes — the weak sidekick to Darcy.


Jane Seymour who has impressed me as having brains but never seems to hold out for sharp roles she might enact was the crook-woman, an utter snob, running the establishment, and there were whiffs of a Lady Catherine de Bourgh imitation but it never quite came off since she was not a character who super-respected herself.

Martin (Wickham character) and Jane (Elizabeth-Jane Austen?) kiss and tumble about in the grass (Keri Russell and Brett Mackenzie)

The wet-shirt scene is Martin or Wickam’s

The secondary romance of Martin as a stable groom, with Jane (a la Elizabeth Bennet fooled by Wickham in P&P) gradually emerges. Martin is a sort of romantic refuge from say the really tough or gritty depiction of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the gamekeeper on the estate – he turns out to be an actor and is exposed as far more phony than Mr Henry Nobley because Mr Nobley does not try to hide that he is a hired actor while Martin does. Martin is the closest the movie got to Wickham. Last seen he is promiscuously chatting up someone in an obligatory end-of-movie festival scene — not explained what this was all about, it seemed suddenly a circus had come to the vacation estate from a nearby English town. Here Lost in Austen had courage in its convictions: like several of the recent Austen films, it was openly sympathetic to Wickham.

Alas as I said, the faux festival scene was not the end of the movie. It might have had some bite if at least it had left Jane to go home utterly disillusioned, knowing that what she had dreamed of was nonsense, based on no knowledge, fake through and through ideas about men and sexual romance. But no suddenly there is Mr Nobley dressed in ordinary 21st century dress and we have a reprise of abject romance reminding me of the tacked-on nature of the ending of Joe Wright’s 2005 P&P. And we have to have poetic justice so the actor playing Wickham is exposed at the airport (waiting for his plane):

Certain details in the film suggest a draft stage — unfinished. For example, Jane’s friend, Molly (?Ayda Field) at home in the US who tells Jane she is a fool and says that she hopes the big sum and time Jane has thrown away upon this “vacation” will be will spent if Jane comes home and throws all the cutesy little girl junk out of her room — is pregnant. This is slowly revealed in the opening segment and the travel agency.


But we never see her again, her pregnancy is never explained, or what she is doing living with Jane. She is the equivalent of the vestigial Margaret in Austen’s own S&S, only that there is nothing brought into the film worthwhile to justify keeping her. 
One telling detail — common among the earlier and still most of the Austen film canon — marking it as a Jane Austen film is no woman loses her virginity during the film; there is no overt sexual act at all. Rare films to break this taboo include Maggie Wadey’s 1986 Northanger Abbey; Victor Nunez’s 1993 Ruby in Paradise (Ruby fights off an attempted rape by the John Thorpe character) and Angel Garcia’s 2011 From Prada to Nada (Mary’s Willoughbhy immediately betrays her by deserting and then shows her he was married, a double twist since she was wanting to marry him partly for his money).
Jerusha and Hale needed to put the film in the can, wait a couple of years, hire everyone back, re-write, re-think and try again. The premiss is not bad — women are allowing themselves to be fleeced. I note the screenplay writer, director and three producers were all women. Shannon Hale wrote Austenland as a book too. But the film is worked out wholly inadequately or with shallow commercial pandering where thought and effort were needed.
And then I watched it a third time — this time much earlier in the day and going slow capturing stills and taking down dialogue – -and I discover it’s much better than I thought. I still think it needed much work, still conclude it has weaknesses, but taken as a kind of mad absurdity, especially a play within the play which is witty and clever

Nobley dressing for play within play


The extravagance of the costumes and their parody of romance types was intriguing; I wish the film-makers had worked harder on this — revised and revised the way Austen herself might have done. It wasn’t daring enough to stay with its burlesque. The witty dialogues were not brought out sharply enough.

Count the anachronisms

Death Comes to Pemberley: the coloration of the film

Dear friends and readers,

My proposal has been accepted:

The Eighteenth Century on Film: A proposal for the coming ASECS in March 2015: “What work does a screenplay or shooting script perform?

The argument of my paper will be that using the screenplay or shooting script to close read a film yields far more accurate and instructive information and insight about the film than comparing it directly (as is often done) to its eponymous novel. I will have three examples where the sources (beyond other films and other intertextual references) and types of films are usefully different.

Humming (1)

Humming (2)
Death comes to Pemberley: one of the many scenes in the wood near Pemberley; a group scene (script calls for lines interacting over scenes juxtaposed)

First I’ll present my findings from an analysis of the final shooting script by Juliette Towhidi for P.D. James’s Death comes to Pemberley against the 2013 romantic mystery thriller mini-series. In this first case we have an intermediary novel, P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley, and, as it is close sequel, a specific originating Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice) with its underlying material literally important to the film but strongly changed first by P.D. James and then by Towhidi. We will be able to see three levels of transference: Death Comes to Pemberley, the film from its shooting script; then the shooting script’s transference from Death Comes to Pemberley, the novel, itself a close sequel to Pride and Prejudice in the way the characters are developed from the original novel.


Metropolitan: Individual and group debate over ideas central to this film

The second part of the paper will tell my findings from an analysis of the screenplay for Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan. I choose this film because it’s a realistic novel of manners done within 2 hours and there is no intermediary novel. In this second case also the originating novel (Mansfield Park) however recognizable through analogy is far from the literal movie story line and characters and yet is there transformed. I hope to make visible the direct transference which still makes the novel newly available with the contemporary slant of an appropriation. I will bring up Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise briefly as it too has no intermediary novel and yet a recognizable Austen novel as its underlying material (Northanger Abbey). One sparrow does not a summer make so a few comments on this second poetic shooting script is there to make more convincing the perspective and argument I made about a film made directly from a script.

Jonny Lee Miller as Mr Knightley walking away from Emma after a strong spat

Agasin from Emma (2009): after Box Hill, Romola Garai as Emma to Michael Gambon as Mr Woodhouse: to his query doubting the good time, she says she doesn’t think she’ll do it again soon, as “one can have too much of a good thing …”

If it’s just 15 minutes I keep to a brief coda bring the 2009 heritage mini-series adaptation of Emma by Sandy Welch. (I’ll omit Andrew Davies’s 1995 Emma film; after all it’s been analyzed elsewhere). What I was to show is the shooting script of a mini-series shows how the cyclical nature of such a film changes the novel fundamentally in the way we experience it even if impressionistically viewers and film critics alike talk as if we have a close “faithful” transference.

Ruby in Paradise: New Henry Tilner in Mike McClasin (the 2008 JJFeilds the same type out of Andrew Davies scripts) an environmentalist who has opted out for a time, playing his horn in the wood outside his cabin-house

2008 Northanger Abbey: JJ Fields as Tilney appealing to Catherine Morland his vulnerability

It is still common for film criticism to ignore or not use centrally the screenplay or shooting script for close readings of films. With the popularity of adaptations, increasingly film-makers use sequels of famous books as well as previous film versions as part of their terrain. So, the purpose of my paper is to show how much more effective a study of a film can be if we use the shooting script or screenplay whether there is an intermediary novel, no intermediary novel or just an originating novel. One reason for the use of the novel rather than the screenplay or shooting script is they are often not made available. For Austen films they are more often than many other classic books because she is such a cult figure and attracts respected film-makers. My hope is studies like mine will help lead to more publication of screenplays and shooting scripts which are valuable works of literature in their own right.


Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth — a remembered dream image of her embarrassment overhearing conversation about her in a previous Lady Ball (Juliette Towhidi’s Death Comes to Pemberley, Episode 2)

To theeas

Romola Garai as Emma gets to come to the sea at last (Sandy Welch’s 2009 Emma, Episode 4, last shot)

Dear friends and readers,

I sent off a proposal to deliver a paper for a panel on film in a coming conference, and thought I’d tell a little about it. What I proposed was to present findings from analyses of a group of films to show what one can learn about a film if you make its screenplay or near-final shooting script your guiding text.

Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan is also a Christmas movie (Carolyn Farina as Aubrey-Fanny Rouget with her mother)

I thought it would be instructive if I compared different relationships between screenplays and films and their underlying materials in novels or other sources.  There are numbers of appropriation films in the Austen canon where there is no novel, just a film and screenplay or shooting script. Two cases where the screenplay or shooting script has been made available, and the same person wrote the screenplay and directed the film attract me especially: Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (from Mansfield Park) and Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise (adapting Northanger Abbey). Nunez’s play is a poetic masterpiece, while Stillman’s is brilliant about the nature of integrity in Mansfield Park as this relates to viewers in the 1990s.

Ashley Judd as Ruby reading Northanger Abbey (after which she and Todd Field as Mike McCaslin discuss Austen’s novels values) (Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise) — for me a favorite still

There a number of films where you can tease out the shooting script (a near-final version before editing and cutting) with, on the one side, an intermediary novel and on the other a closely adapted Austen novel:  of all of these, the 2013 mini-series, Death Comes to Pemberley can be most instructively analyzed using Juliette Towhidi’s shooting script more than others because P. D. James’s novel is a genuine sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, so an analysis reveals illuminating levels of reference in these different underlying materials dramatized, visualized, and heard. I also am deeply engaged by the development of how aspects of Darcy’s character (his pride in ancestry especially) and Elizabeth’s sense of her lack (mortification) leads to disillusionment, estrangement for a time.

Matthew Rhys as Darcy testifying on behalf of Wickham (Death Comes to Pemberley)

Finally the traditional film adaptation, often said to be taken directly from the same Austen novel, so I thought of two heritage films out of Austen’s Emma: in the case of the 1996 Meridian/A&E Emma, scripted by Andrew Davies, a screenplay and scenario in the form of a companion book have been published, and some have persuasively argued a scenario is as crucial to a final film as the screenplay; the recent 2009 Emma, scripted by Sandy Welch, is a 4-part mini-series, and will reveal what happens to this tightly-knit Austen novel when it is turned into this kind of TV program. It’s also been unfairly neglected: its use of Knightley Jonny Lee Miller) as a central perceiver will make for a telling contrast too.

Jonny Lee Miller as Mr Knightley plays a central inward role in Sandy Welch’s 2009 Emma (a new development in the heritage films)

In the history of film criticism, time and again film-makers and critics have asserted that the screenplay used in making a film is one of the central instruments for achieving high quality and commercial success. Some have argued that these plays are works of literature in their own right; others have proselytized (most notoriously Syd Field) for the idea that behind successful movies (no matter what particular surface structuring), lies a forward-thrusting three-act formula; others (Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush in their Alternative Scriptwriting) have produced nuanced accounts of the variety of structures found in different types of screenplays (e.g., the cyclical) from the standpoint of how much time the film can take (the multi-episode form), its genre and/or its author’s gender. Yet it is still common to find analyses of films which compare imagined transfers of specific materials from the underlying or eponymous novel with the finished film without attending to this central prescriptive intermediary. I suggest studying the screenplay will lead to less impressionist film criticism. More studies of shooting scripts and screenplays might encourage the publication of screenplays and shooting scripts, with appropriate apparatuses and annotation.

I’ve assigned and read paperback editions of this book with classes — alongside Austen’s novel

Why the Austen films? I love them. A number of the Jane Austen films’ screenplays and shooting scripts have been published and the underlying materials of all of these naturally form a coherent body of work. Those wanting to attract an audience have hired or been script-writers and directors whose work is studied in its own right. One can therefore obtain scripts, scenarios (companion or “Making of” books), and useful practical commentary for a number of these films. All this because Austen herself is such a cult figure with a world-wide following. Beyond this, the Austen films have similar structures and perspectives: they use female narrators, and attempt to see experience from a woman’s perspective. Yet they are (for the student of film) literally usefully varied films: they come in many different genres, e.g., from Christmas movies to gothics to screwball comedy & family romance.

Alicia Silverstone as Cher in Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (one of two screwball romances made thus far, the previous the 1940 P&P)



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