What did it smell like at the Netherfield Ball? Would our modern noses be horrified if we took one step into the ballroom? I am no historian expert or regency novelist with years of research under her belt. And yet I, an ignorant yet enthusiastic Janeite soapmaker, dared to undertake the thought experiment: who smells the worst in Jane Austen?
My first thought was for the scoundrels. Wickham ought to smell the worst, because he’s the worst fellow. And yet, for all Elizabeth’s eventual dislike, I cannot imagine that is the case. He probably smelled even better than Darcy since he had to keep the ladies smiling. And I suppose scoundrels must all smell amazing, like their namesake soap.
Ah, perhaps it’s the person who has the fewest dresses? Because, given they’d need to wear them more often, they’d get more soiled before washing day, right? That would NOT be Emma then, who wore at least 40 different outfits in the 1995 adaptation (I counted Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma outfits when I was a teenager). But even if it was someone like Miss Bates who had the least outfits, I cannot imagine her allowing her dresses to be anything less then meticulously cared for, whether her dresses numbered three or twenty. And so I must seek another notion of who might smell.
Oh but there was one place in particular that smelled terrible, and two of our dear heroines, Anne and Catherine, lived very near it. It is the waters of Bath, of course! But who spent the most time bathing in the sulfuric water? Mrs. Smith, Anne Elliot’s friend, was said to have frequented the hot baths. Could it be her? But, as she had a nurse to take care of her, I must assume she was kept adequately clean. I suppose it must yet be another, but indeed, I am nervous even at the very idea of saying so.
There is really only one person left. The person who tended to get the dirtiest, caring nothing for where she might step or how long she stayed outdoors wandering about. Yes, indeed, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is guilty of much more than a muddy petticoat, but in retrospect, I begin to wonder if perhaps it was something more than mud that wrinkled the noses of the Bingley sisters. Perhaps–just perhaps–our obstinate headstrong girl truly stank.
After the first invitation to watch Northanger Abbey at her home, it became part of our friendship to watch Jane Austen together.
And then it was my mother, who often turned on Pride and Prejudice while she worked. She bought the films that I came to love, and by the time I was 16 I had read all the major works of Austen, even the gothic novel Catherine Morland was reading in Northanger Abbey. (That is, I read The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe.) I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in training to be a heroine!
But how did Jane Austen come into your life?
Was it through your mother? Or perhaps a teacher or friend? Or you were on an airplane and a stranger loaned you Pride and Prejudice?
Share your origin story in the comments below and subscribe to get reply notifications.
You might say Pride and Prejudice influenced my upbringing, as I saw the 1995 film (starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy) at the impressionable age of 14 and read the book shortly thereafter. After analyzing the content of the film and the book, and reviewing what matters most in life, I came to the conclusion that whether or not Mr. Darcy actually went swimming in the book did not matter to me. What mattered was watching the movie as many times as possible and laughing heartily every single time Elizabeth stumbles upon a dripping Darcy!
I know I’m not the only one who loves it. (If you are unfamiliar with the scene, watch it here and then come right back!) There have been numerous references to it in books, film, and the news that I have come across. To name a few:
There’s the novel by Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, where the character Bridget interviews Colin Firth and peppers him with questions about his “wet shirt.”
And of course the scene in the film, “Lost in Austen,” where Mr. Darcy walks into a lake to satisfy the request of the heroine.
Another is a hilarious song written and performed by Sense and Spontaneity called “Dear Mr. Darcy,” again with numerous references to his wet white shirt.
Do you know any others? Please share in the comments!
And we cannot forget Northanger Soapworks’s contribution to this lovely list of memorials! That is, White Linen bar soap, or Mr. Darcy’s White Linen as it is sometimes called! Inspired by the wet shirt scene, it smells like freshly laundered linen and has a glittery blue top just like the sun reflecting on the lake. All that’s missing is Mr. Darcy himself, and we’ve got a bar soap for him too:)
Experience the scene again from Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective:
And to think you nearly didn’t visit Pemberley with your Aunt and Uncle Gardner. Thank heaven the family were not at home or you would never have come. The beauty of your surroundings overwhelms you and you struggle to take it all in. It is probable you will never again see its splendor, due to your refusal of Mr. Darcy’s hand. You must make the most of this visit.
A sparkle of light through the bushes catches your eye. The housekeeper had mentioned a lake on the property, could this be it?
You near the break in the hedge but before you reach it you see a figure pass through on foot. He has not seen you yet, but you flush red with mortification at your realization that it is Mr. Darcy himself—for the first time since your refusal—walking toward you in a state of dishevelment with a dripping wet white linen shirt. He looks up, shock registers upon his face, and he stops abruptly.
Come springtime in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, you’ll find the Dashwoods staying at Cleveland, the Palmers’s home.
I made haste to watch the 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (which I adore) soon after it was released, most notably because the boy I liked at school rather surprisingly announced one day that the girl he married MUST understand Sense and Sensibility. (Perfectly logical, no? But I digress.) When I read the book four years later I was astounded at the remarkable scene where Willoughby visits Marianne while she’s ill and staying at the Palmer’s home. How had I gone four years without knowledge of this fantastic scene? Why was this not in the film? Surely every person who’s ever been dumped after a romantic relationship would draw satisfaction in knowing that the dumper regretted the action and was totally miserable. Am I right? 😉
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of Emma Thompson’s film diary (she both wrote the script and acted the part of Elinor) and it answered that very question. Simply put–she thought the scene was too distracting from the love story developing between Marianne and Colonel Brandon. (This explanation is not quite enough for me, but it is better than nothing so I will endeavor to be satisfied.)
Then along came the 2008 film (which I also love!) and I was heartened when I saw the Willoughby scene had been included. AND there is a duel. Hurrah! You must watch both versions straightaway, but only AFTER you’ve read the book:)
Willoughby makes this surprise visit in mid-April. He says, “My business was to declare myself a scoundrel, and whether I did it with a bow or a bluster was of little importance.” This quote was my inspiration for the soap! Click here to shop for Scoundrel bar soap, or add it directly to your cart!
For those of you that saw the 1995 Sense and Sensibility before reading the book–what did you think of Willoughby’s return? Were you surprised?
When two worlds collide, great things can occur. (Or, the worlds explode and everyone dies.)
Thankfully, this time it is only GREAT THINGS (I promise). After all, what could be more glorious than bringing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) into every part of our lives, including that part occupied by our favorite author, Jane Austen? This is how I spent my youth–playing D&D style games and watching Pride and Prejudice every weekend.
If you are unfamiliar with D&D, it’s a fantasy role playing game you can do from your kitchen table with paper and pencil and a few friends. One of the most notable things about D&D is the character alignments. When you create your character, you can choose one of nine alignments (or ten, if you choose unaligned). You are good, neutral, or evil, and then either chaotic, neutral, or lawful, with any combination of those two. There are quite a few alignments around the internet of popular television shows and novels, and I had to add mine to the pile beginning with Pride and Prejudice.
On the axis of Good vs Evil, one does not need to be a murderer to be classed as evil. It is a relative concept. This is also true for chaotic vs. lawful.
Let us begin.
Lawful Good: Mr. Darcy
Mr. Darcy, no matter his failings, is a lawful man. He has strong feelings on how things should be done, and the order to be maintained. He wants to treat people justly, but his “good opinion once lost is lost forever”. He cares about social structure, which lends to his lawfulness, and even mentions it during his first proposal to Elizabeth when talks about how he is going against his better judgement.
He is good and generous, caring deeply for others.
Lawful Neutral: Charlotte Lucas
Charlotte is also a very lawful soul. A man asks her for her hand in marriage? There is no question of her acceptance and following the dictates of society. And yet, her haste in doing so puts her character into neutral territory, as in her desperation to marry, she steals Mr. Collins away from the Bennet girls, and a possible chance for Mary.
Lawful Evil: Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Similar to Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine is a lawful woman. Her wealth and connections make her all the more lawful in this respect, as holding to the tradition of valuing connections and fortune above other things is to her benefit in increasing the strength of her position in society. Thus, she wants her nephew to marry into a family with good connections and money. Elizabeth has neither and so Lady Catherine is angry and rightfully so according to the law of society.
Lady Catherine is classed as evil because she goes out of her way to be nasty. The unexpected visit she paid on Elizabeth Bennet, with all manner of accusations, was beneath her.
Neutral Good: Charles Bingley
Bingley is the essence of goodness and kindness–this cannot be doubted. His character is in neutral territory because he is too easily influenced by others. He might have felt himself bound to Jane from the marked attentions he had shown her had he thought about it in a more lawful manner.
True Neutral: Mr. Bennet/Mrs. Bennet
Though only Mr. Bennet is shown in the picture, I think they are both true neutral. Mr. Bennet laughs at his neighbors too much to be good, and though he cares about his family he is not motivated to do anything for them. He prefers to be in his library, detached.
Mrs. Bennet is detached as well–but while her husband detaches himself physically, she is mentally detached and hides from reality. The help she gives her daughters is no help at all.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet do whatever they want to further their own goals, though it is not necessarily well thought out. They are neither good nor evil, chaotic or lawful.
Neutral Evil: Mr. Collins
The character of Mr. Collins is such that at first glance you think he is lawful, but in fact his actions fall short of that and are more self-serving and calculated. He makes a fuss about his obligation to the Bennet family, a lawful idea, but in reality his proposal to a Bennet daughter was for his own gain as she would be more inclined to accept than the average lady because of the real fear of homelessness should Mr. Bennet die. The proposal he makes to Elizabeth alludes to it as well. Had his obligation been truely felt, I don’t believe he would have proposed to Charlotte so quickly.
The evil alignment is justified in my eyes because he uses people to further his ambition, and cares more about pleasing Lady Catherine than being a good person and treating people with kindness.
Chaotic Good: Elizabeth Bennet
Elizabeth is the true representation of chaos for a Lady in her time. She refused two proposals when her “lawful” duty was to accept. She cares for herself and her own happiness more than that of others, including her mother (shocking indeed!). She doesn’t follow society’s rules as closely as she ought, speaks out when she should stay silent, and cares nothing for a clean petticoat–making an exhibition of herself.
And yet, she is full of goodness.
Chaotic Neutral: Lydia Bennet
Lydia is also chaotic, but as her character has less goodness than Elizabeth’s and there are fewer checks on her behavior. She wants excitement and adventure and is willing to take the low road to get there. I would not go so far with her character to classify it as evil though, as I do not believe she intended harm to anyone by her actions.
Chaotic Evil: George Wickham
Wickham, on the other hand, does intend to harm. Through his actions he has harmed no less than three women in Pride and Prejudice that we know well, and very likely more that we do not. A large source of his chaos are his choices, for who would have expected him to run away with Lydia who was neither rich nor well connected?
What do you think? Do you think I’ve misclassified anyone or can you think of someone better? Tell me who and why, I’d love a discussion in the comments!
You happen to visit the Lucases, your cousins, the day of the Netherfield Ball. You have the opportunity to attend–the chance of a lifetime! Will you take it?
Be brave, fair Lady. Let your Jane Austen instincts guide you through this perilous journey. You have a 66% chance of survival.
Unfamiliar with Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories? They are written in second person where you are the hero and follow the narrative until a choice is given. You choose and follow the link to your fate, and often there are several forks in the road. In this short story, there are six possible endings, and two result in death.
I love CYOA, but have never written one before this. Indeed, I was uncertain how the logistics would work until I came across twinery.org, which allows the composition of CYOA with relative ease. I hope you enjoy this adventure!
Let me know how you like it in the comments! I may write more if the mood strikes. Pin and share as much as you wish:) You can also review it on goodreads if you like!
Oh Mary. How often have we ignored you for Elizabeth, cringed at your dresses, or even laughed? Lets face it though, the creators of the 1995 film adaptation did their best to make you look terrible and I do believe you wore the same green and yellow dress at least 4 times in the last hour of the film 🙂
*Soapmaker digression* One year ago, I was over the moon because I’d decided to start making Jane Austen soap (and create Northanger Soapworks!) and I’d finally figured out how to make soap lace. I felt like it was the most beautiful thing I could ever make, and I knew early on it would be for Mary. I wanted it for her because she deserved something beautiful. Years and years of loving Pride and Prejudice made me think of Mary in a new light and rather than laughing, it became wishing and hoping.⠀
Early in label design before opening shop, I considered what I would include with each soap. One idea I had was to have a little story go with each one that would be included in the packaging somehow. It could be just a secret between the receiver and me, or possibly the 1st half of the story would be on the online product listing, and the conclusion included with the product. I do enjoy writing so this idea sounded delightful. So I immediately sat down to write one for Mary Bennet. Well…I soon realized it wasn’t practical for me to do a story because it took up too much space on my packaging. But I condensed what I had written for Mary and included it anyway, folded up inside.
When I saw Mary B by Katherine J Chen on instagram, I was SO excited that someone had written a story for her! Once I got my hands on it I sped through it. It was also time to restock Mary Bennet’s soap in my shop, so I had a very *Mary* week! I laughed so much reading this book and enjoyed it immensely*. My Sherlockian husband read it too and loved it. 4 stars from us both.
*Caveat: there is a lot of hate out there regarding this book. I stayed up late thinking about it after completing it, sorting through my feelings. However, I like books that make me feel and think, and it doesn’t lessen the delightful fun I had reading. I’ll tell you straight up, if it upsets you to see some of your beloved characters altered, you should skip this one. It is also very modern, so old fashioned gals should definitely read with an open mind.
You need the perfect Christmas gift for the Jane Austen lover in your life, but where to start? One of the privileges of being a Jane Austen soapmaker is meeting other Jane Austen makers who have an array of lovely and unique products. I’ve compiled a curated list of unique items that I’ve found and delighted in. If what I’ve linked to is sold out, most of these shops have an abundance of other Jane Austen and literary inspired items sure to soothe the soul.
The list totals eleven items (and a couple extras I snuck in), but I could have gone on with more! I hope you enjoy perusing them! All are unique and most handmade.
Lively Lines Poster. A delightful poster full of words from Jane Austen’s novels and letters. Available from Uncommon Goods.
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy Worry doll set, available from House of Worry Dolls on Etsy. These can come as ornaments too! With so many literary inspired figures in this shop you are sure to find something.
Watercolor with Jane Austen quote, available from Lucy in the Sky on Etsy. Features a favorite quote of mine.
This embroidered art featuring Sense and Sensibility is a one of of kind piece from EttinMoor on Etsy. She has several other embroidered pieces inspired by Jane Austen in her shop.
Mary Musgrove’s Restorative bar soap. A wintery herbal soap inspired from Persuasion, by Northanger Soapworks. (that’s me!) So many other Jane Austen inspired bath products are in the shop too.
Pride and Prejudice map by Pemberley Pond on Etsy. Such a fun and whimsical item.
Pride and Prejudice Literary Handbag, by Enjoy the Traffic on Etsy.
Longbourn Wedding Tea, by Bingley’s Teas. This company has so many Jane Austen concoctions, you’ll be kept very warm indeed!
Elizabeth Bennet Bookmark, by Carrot Top Paper Shop on Etsy. So many lovely things in this shop I want them all!
Regency Jockey Bonnet by Thomas Fortin Creative on Etsy. I have been so impressed with the quality workmanship and detail of these bonnets.
Mr. Darcy Art Print christmas ornament, by Antique Fashionista on Etsy. Such beautiful art prints.
“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.” ~Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland, the final scene of Northanger Abbey 1986 (or was it 1987? It’s a very confusing point for an Austen fan).
For anyone who has watched that adaptation and was paying attention (honestly who could look away from such a spectacle?), you may have asked yourself the question, “What rose bush?”
Well, you are not alone.
Catherine herself asked this. See the helpful imagery below to illustrate.
There. Do you see how she was thinking it? She DESPERATELY needs to know. And now I repeat, What rose bush?
There was no rose bush in the film hitherto Mr. Tilney’s speech, nor is there any mention of one in the book, except a reference on the first page that Catherine enjoyed watering rose bushes.
I can discover only three possibilities:
1. Henry Tilney had a dream where he gave her a white rose bush and it had tragically died after she departed. As much as he wanted to tell her about this dream, he knew it was too inappropriate to tell an unmarried young lady that he had been thinking about her whilst in a bed. Henry planned to tell her AFTER the wedding and was working up to it by making modest allusions to its existence. Unfortunately, he chose an inopportune moment because instead of her heart feeling touched by his love for her, she was rather confused about the dead rose bush. If she had known there was a rose bush that she was to water, she would surely have told the gardener to water it before her departure.
2. Tragically, the 92 minute film was deemed too long so a 4 minute scene about a white rose bush was cut from the final version leaving the audience bewildered.
3. Henry was a romantic sort and was speaking figuratively.
“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.” ~Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland, the final scene of Northanger Abbey 1986.
How many times have I heard that line spoken? 100 times? 1000 times? Probably somewhere in between. The final scene of that film used to be on Youtube and I recall watching it over and over, mesmerized. When it was taken down I switched over to the DVD and kept watching. I’m sure it has escaped nobody’s notice that my business name is taken from the Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. Now you being to see why!
Most people don’t have a strong attachment to that film version like I do, and I’ll readily admit it has many flaws, is full of creepy men, and is beyond hilarious for its foibles. But. But. But. It has its moments. I saw it at the impressionable age of 10 years old, my very first Austen film and first exposure to her works. I will always adore it and show it to close friends.
The original inspiration for Mr. Tilney’s Proposal, the white rose scented bar soap that I sell in my shop, was indeed this final scene from 1986. However, the proposal scene in the 2007 film with J.J. Feild also takes place along a hedgerow that I am convinced is full of white roses in the summer.
I’ve introduced many friends to the delights of the 1987 adaptation and I hope to continue!
Years ago when I had my first blog as a graduate school student, I compiled a list of what I thought were compelling reasons to watch this lesser known, somewhat creepy version of Northanger Abbey. Peter Firth is definitely no J.J. Feild, and there is no comparison between them in my mind as to who made the better Henry Tilney. But in my heart, the older film was my first love.
Why I love Northanger Abbey (1986) / written by Laura in 2007
The male lead’s last name is Firth. Peter Firth. No relation to Colin Firth, unfortunately, but this point alone is important enough that I need not go on…(yet I do).
The theme music is excessively melodramatic. Quite laughable, actually. Not at all fitting for Jane Austen.
There is a horrific saxophone and soprano duet during a nature walk that you just can’t miss.
Peter Firth sings somewhat painfully out of tune, but at least he tries. With his own voice–which is more than most can claim.
All the actors and actresses are VERY ugly, except for the two leads who are so-so.
The film was made in the 1980s, with hair to match.
The male antagonist, John Thorpe, is super creepy, and far uglier than any other cast member, except possibly for an old guy in the giant yellow wig you see in a Bath ballroom.
There is a woman in the same ballroom with a beauty spot on her face 1 inch in diameter. One WHOLE inch.
You can hear Darth Vader breathing in the background sometimes.
Catherine (often) wears her hair with tight curls poking out onto her forehead that looks like a claw.
There are nonsensical daydream sequences!
Henry Tilney somehow wins the heart of the female lead by insulting her on the sly (although at first glance, this also happens in the book!)
Henry wrinkles his nose in one scene, which I find delightful.
Really, I could go on and on. I love this film and always will.
But there is one point upon which I will always be confused. There is no mention of a rose bush either in the novel or in the film up until Henry says it has “died of grief.”
I can only imagine Catherine thinking, “What rose bush?” See my next post on this very important topic.
I am half agony, half hope.Tell me not that I am too late.
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