Friday, July 28, 2017

Review of Bleak House (2005)!

Well! I have just finished watching the delightful Bleak House. Last autumn I had the pleasure of listening to the book — thirty hours+ long and worth every minute of it. I had forgotten some parts of the book and enjoyed going over it again. Indeed, in looking up the wording of favorite quotes for this post, I got caught up in reading over parts again. It would be a long and tedious post were I to include everything I smiled over or thrilled to, but I give you this link, my readers, and encourage you to explore it for yourself. Better yet, read the book.
But our business today is primarily with the movie. Without further ado,

REVIEW OF BLEAK HOUSE



First of all, you should know I don't do summaries. To summarize a Dickens novel would take a book itself. (There are upwards of twenty important characters, depending on how you count.) But if you aren't familiar with the story, I shall attempt to provide some background for this review.

Esther Summerson is an orphan of uncertain parentage. The story begins when she is about the age of twenty. Her guardian John Jarndyce, whom she has never met, has brought her to live with him as a companion for his wards Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, also about eighteen or twenty. They are all fast friends (Rick and Ada very close friends, I might add), but Richard soon becomes involved with the suit in Chancery, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. This case has been in the Chancery court for generations, contesting the various wills made by a long dead John Jarndyce. If the case can be resolved, Richard and Ada may receive a large inheritance. Their cousin Jarndyce warns Richard not to pin his hopes on this, as many men have been ruined by doing so, and encourages him as he starts to look for a profession. Then more stuff happens.

And there's also a lot of other people, but without wishing to give many spoilers or extend this brief summary beyond reason, I will simply explain each person/event as he comes into my review.


I'd like to get one thing out of the way immediately, which is to say that this movie has nothing in it which I would call questionable for teenagers/adults (believe me, I'm very sensitive to such things), but it is not for children. There are several uses of d---n,  a few (not at all crude) references to illegitimacy, but I think more disturbing, several death scenes. The body count in this story is rather high! One character dies in a rather shocking scene, with groans and gasps. Two characters look grey, cough blood, and die (not gruesomely.) One character is shot off screen and we later see him lying dead on the ground. Several bodies are shown briefly. Again, none of this is gratuitous, I simply wouldn't recommend the film for children.

If you haven't time to read any farther in this review, let me hastily state that the short version is: I loved it and thought it was a thoroughly excellent adaptation. Of course there were differences (enumerated below, naturally), but only such as were needed due to the constrained nature of a film vs. book.

CHARACTERS AND EVENTS



Richard and Ada were both great. At first, I thought Ada looked way too young, but I grew used to that. I did think Ada was a little more... defensive? than I remembered her from the book. She seemed irritated when *SMALL SPOILER* Jarndyce or Esther lamented Richard's folly. *END SPOILER*
Jarndyce and Esther both looked different from my mental image of them, so at first I wasn't loving either one, but they grew on me. Jarndyce's manner was perfect. One of my favorite parts about Dickens is all the little mannerisms his characters have, and I'm glad the movie captured these so well. I love Jarndyce's constant comments about the wind.


I also found Jo, the crossing boy, different than I pictured but not a bad actor. Mr. Snagsby, the law stationer who befriends Jo, didn't seem to come into the movie as much as the book, but he was perfect. He coughed and said "not to put to fine a point upon it" just as a Mr. Snagsby ought to.
*SPOILER* Jo's death was a very sad scene. I love how they had Jarndyce say this quote from the book: Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day. *END SPOILER*

Is it just me, or is Guppy kind of creepier than he is in the book? At least, I don't remember him staring at the house for days and days (or being described as sightly greasy). Very good, Mr. Gorman.


Sir Leicester, Lady Dedlock, and Tulkinghorn were absolutely perfect. Now, it is very nice to have an excellent Sergeant George, a delightful Gridley and spot-on Guppy. But I think I do not exaggerate when I say that to have a good Lady Dedlock is vital. Sir Leicester, to use Dickens' words, is 'an honourable, obstinate, truthful, high-spirited, intensely prejudiced, perfectly unreasonable man.' Timothy West played this character very well. He is not bad man, but he is definitely A Nobleman. His love for Lady Dedlock is moving.

There is a shocking lack of pictures of Sir Leicester on the internet. Several with My Lady in the foreground but, search as you will (I did), none of Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, clearly shown. You'll just have to take my word for it that he looked the part.

Tulkinghorn was just as cold, compassionless and cruel as any Tulkinghorn ought to be. He is not one of those characters you hate and also kind of feel bad for. He is not one of those villains you secretly like. So I can't even say "I love Tulkinghorn (referring to the actor)." I did not enjoy his screen time and wished he would just go away. That is exactly how one ought to feel towards such a man, so I think Charles Dance did his job.


Not to put too fine a point upon it, but Lady Dedlock's mannerisms — the way she moved her head, the curious way she pursed her lips (pictured below because I can't describe) — seemed to fit her character very well. Of course she was gorgeous as My Lady ought to be. 



I was pleased with Caddy and Mrs. Jellyby, the Turveydrops, Sergeant George (I love him, actually), Phil (tacking off, as usual), Krook (disgusting sort), Alan Woodcourt and Miss Flite. Poor Miss Flite, for those who haven't read the book, also has an endless suit in Chancery. ('The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself,' you know.) She keeps a lot of caged birds and says that when she has a judgment in her case she will let them all free. One of her quirks is not wanting to tell their names, which are Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach. 
Nemo/Hawdon seemed to have more movie time than he did in the book. It seemed like he was basically introduced and then died, in the novel. But as he ends up being an important part of the story, I suppose the movie people thought we ought to have some clue who the guy was before killing him off. 



Gridley, on the other hand, had hardly any screen time, but what I saw I liked. Vholes was not how I pictured him, but he was well played and, again, they kept his little mannerisms like mentioning his daughters he had to support and calling Rick "Mr. C".
Smallweed was even MORE disgusting than the book! Still humourous, though. "Shake me up, Judy!"

Harold Skimpole is a very interesting character whom I have yet to entirely figure out. At the conclusion of Bleak House the book, my opinion was that he was of a childlike mind, but he could have endeavoured to be more thoughtful. After watching the mini series, I now am drifting more towards the opinion that his manner is entirely put on. What do you think, readers? Is Harold Skimpole a selfish, lazy man who takes bribes, or just a child in grown-up's skin?


Inspector Bucket was excellent. Throughout the book and movie, one is constantly wondering if he is a "good" character or a "bad" character. (In this respect he reminds me of Pancks from Little Dorrit.) I enjoy a character like this; like Sir Leicester, he is not clear cut. Sir Leicester has clear faults (ahem, major snob) but *SPOILER* he forgives My Lady seemingly without a second thought. *END SPOILER* Likewise, Bucket tells Jo to move on and arrests Sergeant George, but he seems to pity Gridley and doesn't tell The Damaging Secret when he easily could have. 

My Lady's maid Hortense was great. To quote Charles Dickens on the subject (why not?): There is something indefinably keen and wan about her anatomy, and she has a watchful way of looking out of the corners of her eyes without turning her head which could be pleasantly dispensed with, especially when she is in ill humor and near knives. 


CHARACTERS AND EVENTS REMOVED

There were a fair amount of characters not included in the adaptation, but as mentioned above, Dickens is not known for a small amount of characters. Mr. Smallweed's wife and grandson, Tony Jobling (Weevel), Sir Leicester's many cousins, Mrs. Snagsby, and Sergeant George's friends the Bagnets.  Their removal didn't change the storyline much, though, so I was not too offended. (I would have enjoyed seeing Mrs. Bagnet on screen though!) What I lamented more was the lack of scenes with the Reverend Chadband. If you don't remember this man, he is a hilarious "parson" (he doesn't have a church) who calls everyone "my friends" and can only speak in sermons. (Sermons comprised of obvious rhetorical questions.) I must give you a sample, and then you will agree that he deserved more than his ninety seconds.
"My young friend," says Chadband, "it is because you know nothing that you are to us a gem and jewel. For what are you, my young friend? Are you a beast of the field? No. A bird of the air? No. A fish of the sea or river? No. You are a human boy, my young friend. A human boy. O glorious to be a human boy! And why glorious, my young friend? Because you are capable of receiving the lessons of wisdom, because you are capable of profiting by this discourse which I now deliver for your good, because you are not a stick, or a staff, or a stock, or a stone, or a post, or a pillar.

The events were mostly kept the same, but of course the order was at times rearranged a little. I noticed two changes the most. *SPOILER* I did prefer the way Jarndyce's proposal was done in the book. "Is this the mistress of Bleak House?" I liked his letter, assuring her that if she said no they would never mention the subject again, etc.  *END SPOILER*  I also thought that the ending scene at the end was kind of... Hollywood. I mean, sure the movie goes like to see familiar faces. But really, would you *MINOR SPOILER* actually invite Inspector Bucket to your wedding? Harold Skimpole? Mrs. Rouncewell is a nice lady, but Esther doesn't even know her. *END SPOILER*


All in all, as a book to movie transfer, I'd give it five stars.

FILMING

I'd just like to make a note about the way this movie was filmed, because I think the style was very interesting. Sometimes the camera would move, like a person's eye might. When switching scenes to Bleak House or Chesney Wold they would flash several different angles of the house. And finally, when two people were in conversation they often filmed a person with some small object close to the camera, partially obscuring their face.


This is a very poor picture of Mr. Smallweed, but you can see the effect.
I did feel that the film was sometimes too dark physically; I found myself trying to brighten my screen several times when it was already all the way bright.

COSTUMES

My favorite part! I loved the costumes in this movie. I know very little about the period so I cannot really comment on the accuracy. It did seem to me, however, that Ada ought to have had her hair up. Towards the end of the movie she began having it up/only a curl or two down, but at first it was almost entirely hanging loose. I'm not certain of her exact age, but I don't think she is younger than eighteen. This was probably the movie's attempt to show her growing older, but it just made her seem even younger than she already looked (and therefore her falling in love with Richard seemed a little ridiculous.)
Otherwise, there was nothing overtly modern, but to the untrained eye like mine it's very easy for a film to throw in an 1820s bonnet with 1840s dress and a man in an 1850s frock coat. So I will simply comment on the aesthetic appeal, which was great. :)  (I do apologize for the poor quality of photos following; there are very few pictures available on the web.)

Honestly, I could have done an entire post just on costumes. If I had to choose just one character's wardrobe I would take Esther's. However, my favorite dresses are some of Lady Dedlock's.

Ada's wardrobe is composed of a lot of plaids, generally on the brown spectrum. 


(I'm really not at all qualified to comment on the finer points of the styles in this film; as mentioned above I know very little about the period. So I'm just pointing out details I like.) The bottom two dresses seem to be cut on a similar style: buttons up the front, loose sleeves coming to a narrow cuff. I like the lace edging the neckline on the left. But I also like the slightly more elegant look of the green-gold upper left dress, with the very fitted bodice and narrow sleeves. However, my favorite of Ada's dresses is the floral one (pictured above); the style almost reminds me of something from the 1770s. I love the sprigged pattern.

The only one of Ada's I actively dislike is her birthday dress.


Once again, I don't know much about the 1850s in dress, but both the material and the sheer sleeves on her dress just looked so... costume.
Here we get a look at another of Ada's brown dresses (with her hair down, I might add), as well as a nice view of one of my favorite of Esther's.


Esther's dresses tend to be more in the grey/blue palette. You don't have to know me long to know this is basically my wardrobe. :P Her dresses are for the most part simple but beautiful.



I love the grey/purple color of the bottom right dress, as well as intricate details on the bodice. The two blue dresses on the left side are typical of Esther's wardrobe. She had one or two others in a similar style. I like the upper left best. The bodice and sleeves seem to fit her figure very well, and the lace stands out against the simple cut.
I'm not sure if anyone else noticed this, but after The Illness, Esther started wearing her hair differently. Instead of all neatly but elegantly pulled back, during the second half of the mini series she always seems to have these side curls which I'm really not a fan of. Notice the difference between the upper left above and the lower left.


She also wears this lovely green one several times. It's cut in a similar style as the blue grey one (shown above, with Ada) she also wears frequently. I like the shorter sleeves and the buttons up the front.
Lady Dedlock has a large wardrobe in several colors: red and green predominately, with a touch of black and blue.


On the far left, she has sheer sleeves similar to Ada's birthday dress. Once again, I'm not a fan. However period it may be, to me it looked fake. 
Lady Dedlock has at least two dresses she wears when traveling or going out.


If you've seen North and South (2004), this one will be familiar to you as Margaret's train scene ensemble! I like the hat Lady Dedlock wears in this scene. (I would totally love to have a traveling dress and hat.)

However, one of my absolute favorites of My Lady's is this pale blue grey costume below. I just love the lace details and the beautiful bodice. (You also get a look at another of Esther's dresses, not one of my favorites. Once again, a nice blue fabric, but I don't like the large open sleeves. In the "Character" section above, you can see the front of this dress.)


Sidenote: I also really like Lady Dedlock's hair (the same in all scenes), except for this tiny curl that hangs down in the back on her right. It always kind of bugged me.


Three more of Lady Dedlock's:


The two green ones are in my top three dresses that My Lady owns. Click on the photo or scroll up to the second picture of Lady Dedlock to get a closer look at the pale green dress. She always wears it with a sheer embroidered fichu, the details of which are simply lovely. The black evening gown is worn with a black fichu; I notice the sleeves are sheer but patterned with a simple design. I'm not sure whether this is accurate or not (seems a little more twentieth century to me) but it's pretty. Lastly, the deep emerald one on the right. The gorgeous color, the rich material (at least, it looks like nice material) and the delicate lace on the cuffs is what puts this dress in the top three.

That concludes my overall thoughts on the costumes. All three women had even more ensembles (and I didn't even go into Mr. Turveydrop, Miss Flite or Mrs. Rouncewell), but I hope I gave you an idea of the visual side of the film.

So what do you think, readers? Is Mr. Guppy creepier than he was in the book? What is your opinion on Harold Skimpole? And given the choice between Ada, Esther and My Lady, whose wardrobe would you take?

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Monday, July 17, 2017

200 Years of Jane Austen

I have absolutely no idea why I am writing this post — or more specifically, how. I have various things to get done tonight, a moderately full schedule the next three days, and I am going on a holiday from early Friday morning (I mean very early) until the end of July. But I suppose how is answered by the why.
The why is Jane Austen. And I make time for Jane Austen.

Jane Austen is my angel.*


Tomorrow is the two hundred year anniversary of her death. If you've read more than a couple posts on this blog you will no doubt be aware of the fact than I am a devotee of Miss Austen. So in remembrance of this dear lady I am posting some of my favorite quotes. Also, I encourage you to read this page on the Jane Austen Society of North America's website, filled with tributes to Jane.


§
One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. (Emma) Note: Jane Austen is so much in my blood that I say this quote often to myself but only recently realized she wrote it!





The one all of my family will recognize: Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as quickly as I can... (Mansfield Park)

§

Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others. (Sense and Sensibility)

§

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerable stupid. (Northanger Abbey)




[She was] sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful. (Mansfield Park)

§

A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment. (Pride and Prejudice)



Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! Worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again and I will leave the room this moment. (Sense and Sensibility)

§

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! (Pride and Prejudice)

§

The best description of certain parties: Too numerous for intimacy, too small for variety. (Persuasion)



“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement — people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.” (Northanger Abbey)

§

A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself. (Mansfield Park)

§

And of course: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. (Pride and Prejudice)



She will never be forgotten. 

Cordially,
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*If you didn't get the joke, you obviously need to watch Bleak House. Not Jane Austen (Dickens) but still amazing. Review coming soon!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Literary Outline of My Days

Well, readers, as of the end of May, I have reached the age that Fanny Price is through the majority of Mansfield Park (and have just finished a reread of that delicious novel). I stand at the brink of prospects such as Anne Shirley faces at the end of Anne of Green Gables, though she chose to give them up.

Laura Ingalls became a teacher at 16; I can't imagine doing that, but now I can say that at 18 I was a recess teacher. For three days I led fifty homeschooled 3-13 -year-olds (not all at once!) in obstacle courses and relay races. Crazy, but also a good experience. I went into it thinking, I know preschoolers! I can handle these! (I teach Sunday school for 3-5-year-olds at my church). Um... There is a big difference between ten of those kiddos and twenty. Plus no walls to contain them in, haha. I still love kids (ahem, I'm getting a degree in Elementary Education so I'd better) but I now know that I know nothing. It was also a very strange feeling to realize I was completely in charge and that I was the "adult" who legally had to be there. Odd, very odd.

I just finished reading Little Dorrit. Oscar Wilde says that "If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, then there is no use in reading it at all." This is certainly true of LD. It is my new favorite Charles Dickens book. I now very much want to watch the BBC version of it, and I think that I shall have little trouble in getting my middle sister to watch it with me because this fellow is in it:

THE Mr. Darcy in her eyes.

Sophie Hatter would be aghast at the state of my house, as I have not been pursuing her sham career at'all this last month. I hope we are a little cleaner than the castle, but studying for tests and preparing for parties is not at all conducive towards neat habits.

have been practicing Sherlock Holmes' instrument, and to my great delight my teacher has at last given me a book on reading music for the violin.

And most exciting, I have at last taken up the [figurative] blue notebook of Jane Penderwick. No snippets yet as I'm still trying to keep the motivation for the final chapter.

Alas, I could find no literary reference to tell of perhaps the most momentous event, viz. my high school graduation. It is a strange feeling to be viewing high school as a past thing. I've still been doing 'school work' but it's not stuff that's necessary for high school (i.e., CLEP tests and history books that I enjoy). For those still in high school or below, graduation seems eons away, but all of the sudden it comes way faster than you expected.

Theoretically summer brings more time for reading. Of course one is always busier than one expects, but I hope you all have time to fit in at least a little something now and then. Happy reading!
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Monday, May 1, 2017

What, I write?


Those who have only just started following this blog may not be aware — and those who have followed long may have forgotten — that I call myself a writer. I say that I'm currently retelling the King Arthur legends. What's more accurate is that I was retelling them and stopped. I haven't written since the first few weeks of January; before that, I cannot say. Well, this writer misses her Arthur and I hope that eventually the writing that is not quite as fun will be over, so that I can pursue this story again.
There have been many times in my life where writing has seemed like an indulgence. A waste of time. If I'm not writing something that will directly help someone (i.e., a devotional book) then I am being selfish. I could be spending that time either working on my school, cleaning the house, or actually helping someone.
Recently, I've come to realize that my abilities, meagre as they may be, are a gift from God. I don't mean to say that I was just told that I've been ordained to be a writer and from now on I'm pursuing writing over everything else. But I have realized that a thing of beauty, even if it never directly says the word "God" is just as likely — perhaps more — to touch those who need it. And if I have been given some ability to create such a thing, then I do have a duty to work at it.
So! All that to say, that I am once again trying to get back to writing and actually FINISH this thing. Most of my school will be over in early May. Although I do hope to get a part time job this summer, I shall have a great deal more time that I intend to share with Arthur.

In anticipation of this, I am doing a Beautiful People questionnaire (from May 2015) for Owain.




Does he get nightmares? If so, why or what of?
Owain is a hard worker and is always very tired when he lays down to sleep. He doesn't usually have dreams — or at least doesn't remember them — but he has had some nightmares about his uncle's drunken rages.

What is his biggest guilty pleasure or secret shame?
Owain almost hates his uncle, but he is also ashamed of this. He was brought up to regard family ties as very important and, despite his uncle's behavior he feel that he ought to care for him in some small way, or at least pity him.

Is he easily persuaded or does he need more proof? 
Owain is definitely more easily persuaded; however, I would say that this is more because he is desperate than due to naiveté.

Does he suffer from any phobias? Does it affect his life in a big way?
Owain is much too sensible (or has too little time) to have a serious phobia.

Morvydd
What does he consider his "Achilles' heel?"
Morvydd, his sister, you might say is his Achilles' heel. She is a cowed, nervous person (due to said uncle) and he is very protective of her.

How does he handle a crisis?
Owain is not the sort of person to take charge over everyone in a crisis. Neither is he paralyzed. He generally realizes pretty quickly what he can/should do, and does it quietly and quickly.

Does he have a temper?
No. He can definitely get very angry, but not easily.

What are his core values and/or religious beliefs?
Owain is nominally Christian. He has a strong sense of justice and values protecting the weak.

I think that Owain looks rather like Dominic Muir.

What things does he value most in life?
It may sound cheesy, but his friends/family. When once he becomes attached to someone he has strong affections.

What is one major event that helped shape who he is?
His father's accident and eventual death definitely affected his life; because of the former, he was apprenticed to a different miller, rather than learning at home. Because of the latter he is now stuck with his uncle. But as to what shaped him as a person: his father was not perfect but he always treated women and the elderly with respect. Because of that, Owain finds these things very important and is put off by people who don't do likewise.

Well! I certainly enjoyed getting to understand Owain a little better. Now I feel sentimental and close to my medieval friends again. To writing I go!*
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*I do not mean this literally. I mean it in a... figurative sense. In a vague kind of way. In a very, very, general way. With an assumed "At some point" at the beginning of the sentence... Anyhow!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Slightly Interesting Facts About Me

Evangeline at Over the Hills wrote some fun tag questions and invited participation. So therefore, I am answering them.

Do you have any family heirlooms?
I'm sure there are more general family things, but I personally own two aprons which were my great-grandmother's, and a small silver (plated, presumably) tray with brush, that also belonged to her.

Opinion on letter writing?
I adore writing letters and getting them. Unfortunately, doing the first usually doesn't ensure the second.

Do you prefer tea, coffee, or cocoa?
Tea, hands down. I now have a cabinet in the kitchen which is exclusively designated to be my tea cabinet. Side note: When I start to run low on English Breakfast Tea, and say "I need to buy tea" my mother invariably [and somewhat truthfully] says "you have lots of tea!" Yes, but not tea. However, she did thoughtfully buy me some the other day when I was out. I do enjoy hot chocolate in the winter, but not coffee.

What's your favorite children's story?
Obviously I have a great many, but the one which first pops into mind is Elizabeth Isele's The Frog Princess.
This is the first book I can remember loving. Every time I went to the library I went over to the shelf it was on and pulled it out. I don't know how young I was when I first saw it, but I know that I couldn't read yet, because I recognized it by the color of the spine. Years later I thought about this book and found the library had gotten rid of it (!!). Since I had no idea who had written it, it took me some time but eventually I found it on the internet.

There are many variations on the frog princess/frog prince story, but I've never come across one like this. Elizabeth Isele adapted it from a Russian tale. I still love the Russian setting and the illustrations.

What movie or period drama ending really frustrated you? And how would you change it?
Hm, nothing that was "really frustrating" comes to mind, because if the ending of a movie was "really frustrating" I probably didn't like the rest of the movie. And therefore changing the ending wouldn't help. Such as Somewhere in Time; a happy ending (or a tragic, rather than stupid ending) would have improved it only slightly. Then there's movies like Fiddler on the Roof. I could wish it ended happier, but any different would have been unrealistic. I used to think My Fair Lady would be perfect if Harold Hill acted a little more humbly in the last scene, but now I'm not sure if they should end up together. So, really, I don't know that I have any movies where a) only the ending frustrated me and b) a change would actually be better.

Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
In ten years I'll be almost twenty-eight (!). I see myself teaching small children in another country. I hope to be married with a few children, but that's in God's hands.

What makes you nostalgic?
Well, a lot of things do, but nothing very interesting, I'm afraid. Reading old letters and journals. There is a certain smell that sometimes comes on me, that I can't remember when I'm not smelling it and can never identify what it reminds me of.


If you had to describe yourself as an animal, what would it be?
I've had other people tell me I'm like a cat, I think because I quietly appear places and am not as outgoing as, say, a dog. However, I've often thought of myself as a mountain goat. I enjoy clambering around on rocks and hills and have good balance. Mountain goats may not be fast but they are sure-footed and hearty.

If a loved one was to serenade you, what song would you most like them to sing?



Need I say more? My sister and I both swoon over this.

If you could change your name to anything, what would your new name be?
I wouldn't change my name. I am quite satisfied with it. If I had to, I think I'd go with Elizabeth. I like old-fashioned names and that's one that has a lot of nickname options. (Side note: I went and looked at a list of baby names to refresh my memory on names that I like, and, boy, some of the names I previously liked are so strange to me now. Cessair? Fawn? Really?)

What's your favorite biscuit to dunk?
Dunking biscuits in coffee might be different, but in tea, dunking = crumbs in tea. I don't like crumbs in my tea.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Regency Morning Caps

This is probably the easiest project I have done for this play. These caps can easily be done in an afternoon. The tutorial is so simple that I almost wouldn't post it, except that I have been unable to find any similar tutorials online, and therefore people don't know just how easy it is. Being a new (since Christmas) member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (!!!), I attended a sewing party held in my region a few months ago. In addition to finishing my spencer and gushing over Colin Firth together, the kind lady hosting showed me a cap she had made and told me how she had done it. Following her instructions I made two. This tutorial shows how I made Lady Middleton's, patterned off of the cap of Jane Austen herself.

Charlotte wears a similar cap in the real 1995 Pride and Prejudice, made of all one kind of material. I made Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Ferrars caps entirely of lace, like hers.





Materials:
Fabric circle with diameter of 17 inches
Strip of the same fabric 2" by 60" (the ruffle piece)
Coordinating or matching fabric strip 2" wide (the head band; see length below)
Needle and thread/sewing machine, pins


Instructions:
Measure around the crown of your head. Add 1 1/2 inches (in the hat shown, the green fabric is 26.5 inches long). This is how long your coordinating (or matching) fabric needs to be. This is your band.

Run two lines of gathering stitches (low tension and large stitches on a machine) along the edge of the fabric circle. The first line of stitches should be 1/2-5/8 inches from the edge, the second line 1/2-5/8 inches from the first line. N.B. one line of stitches will work as well, but I find doing two lines helps it gather more easily and evenly.
Double line of gathering stitches
Gather the circle to the band and pin right sides together as shown.


 Sew together.
Turn one edge of the ruffle piece over 1/4 inch and hem. Run a gathering stick along the other edge. Pin to the band, right sides together, as shown. Sew together. If the ruffle is wanting to stick up, lightly iron along the band.



Well, here ends the last of my Regency sewing posts (at least the ones pertaining to the play; now that I'll be wandering around the house wondering what to do I'm thinking of adding embroidery to the green dress shown above, and if so I will certainly give before and after pictures). Sense and Sensibility performed for the last time two days ago. This was my last performance with my homeschool drama group, too, as I graduate this spring. I am very excited to be going to the university in my home town this fall, as I know several good friends there and I'm glad I can continue to live at home. But 'tis bittersweet, too.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Regency Tail Coats: The Back

I have just finished the seventh and last coat and thought I'd share some pictures of how some of them ended up; specifically, what I ended up doing with the back of them.
First, the finished coat I showed in the first post.
John Dashwood's coat was rather big on him. In the process of my research, I stumbled across this picture.
To me it looked kind of like there was just darts in the back, so to get it to fit better I added curved darts.


Mrs. Jennings' footman's coat was also too big for him, so I added darts to that as well. To both coats I added buttons. In the green livery I cut and hemmed a slit, but didn't bother to do so on Dashwood's.


Adding the gold cord to this coat was my final sewing project. I am quite pleased with the effect of the trim and the double breasted gold buttons.


The man playing Willoughby is of a large stature and I was afraid a normal suit jacket would look wrong on him. (Since tail coats were longer than our usual suit coat.) His jacket being one of the ones I cut straight across, I attached the two pieces cut off the front, onto the back, as shown.


It doesn't look good close up, but from the stage I hope it will look fine. I added two buttons to the back of this coat as well, but left the jackets belonging to Mr. Palmer, Edward, and Brandon plain.
I must say, I'm rather nervous about the costumes right now. If these coats look terrible it will be entirely my fault. If people don't understand the script, that'll be my fault too. I feel a great deal of pressure as the performance date approaches (a week from Thursday...!).


A Note on Cravats:
As I knew I would be making cravats for six gentlemen, I originally thought to write a post on the subject. However, once I had done a bit of research, the making and tying of a cravat was so easy that an entire separate post would be inane. I will just mention a few quick points:
  • To make my cravats, I simply cut a 10x80 piece of white cotton, hemmed it, and starched it. (Some cravats were triangular, I believe, but I decided to go with a rectangle.) The starch is very important.
  • This post was extremely helpful. Not only is it cool to see a modern guy who appreciates history and enjoys wearing cravats, at the bottom of the post you will find instructions for two knots.
  • Cravats in the Regency period were always white, to the best of my knowledge (at least, at evening events). In the late 1820s on, other colors began to be used as well. 
  • In addition to cravats and stocks, there was a thing called a jabot, which is basically a frill on a string (see here), which we so often admire on the amazing Sir Percy.


Although technically, I believe jabots were going out of fashion in the Regency era, I have decided to attach a lace ruffle to Robert Ferrar's cravat, as he is a fop and I hope it will emphasize this. As his actor also plays Mr. Palmer, to differentiate, I deviate from history again by making a black cravat for Mr. P. And, what pains me most, I believe he will be wearing a mustache as Robert. Sigh.


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