Audio CD Mansfield Park

Once … very much “out of stock”

The 2003 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park featuring, David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch as brothers Tom and Edmund Bertrum, is available on audiobook.

Joining them is Felicity Jones, known to Archers fans as the original Emma Carter, Tim Piggott-Smith (The Bletchley Circle) and Julia McKenzie (Miss Marple).

Mansfield Park is the classic 19th century novel and the third by Jane Austen written between 1811 and 1813. The tale centres on young Fanny Price the second eldest of nine children sent to Mansfield Park to live with her aunts. She is sensitive, shy, intelligent, and virtuous, with a good sense of morals. She has been in love with her cousin Edmund since she was young and when they both realise their feelings, they marry. But Fanny is also pursued by Mr. Henry Crawford a charming, persuasive and eligible bachelor.

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Nineteen

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Nineteen – The Lures of Temptation

 

As soon as his right arm encircled her lower back, Beth found herself yielding to Stephen’s enticing, as if it were the most natural thing to do. He took her right hand into his left one, inducing her to place her other hand on his shoulder. When he started moving in a circular way, she felt the muscles in that shoulder shift and flex in a most agreeable manner. He was strong and well-built and … very male, with the faint scent of cologne and tobacco assaulting her senses, making her body respond in a strange way. Her breasts suddenly seemed too large for her dress but the tingling feeling was very pleasant and exciting. Her lower stomach developed a life of its own, aching all of a sudden with a spiralling, throbbing wave of … what only could be named ‘desire’!

As they circled the room, enchanted by the lovely tones of the waltz, Beth raised her head and met Stephen’s gaze. His very blue eyes were glowing softly and with an expression she never beheld before. His mouth, finely chiselled and smiling, opened slightly to reveal his perfect white teeth.

“May I express my admiration on the lovely attire you chose to wear tonight, Miss Williams? You are looking exactly how I knew you would as soon as you abandoned that gloomy black you usually prefer.”

Beth felt her cheeks go hot, not as usual in anger, but in genuine pleasure, for his voice had not been mocking. Instead he had spoken in a gentle tone as if he had been admiring her in truth. She had donned a gown of burgundy coloured taffeta, with only the shortest of puffed sleeves so that the neckline, not that low at all, still gave the impression of revealing more of her bosom than it truly did. The loose, flowing skirt, worn without a crinoline, swirled becomingly as they circulated the room.

Light as a feather – that was how Beth felt. Being in Stephen’s arms, close to him as she had never been with a dance partner, did not frighten her as she would have thought it would. Instead, a strong notion of unmistakeable safety warmed her whole person.

Yet, as pleasant as it was, it was not enough to dispel her experiences of what Stephen was, nor her suspicions of what his intensions were towards her. She was acutely aware of one thing; she did not truly know the Master of Brixton Abbey.

Between the disastrous dealings with him during her youth and the present time, their lives had been led separately in different places. Beth had been tucked away in Provence with her father and her aunt, safely guarded and blissfully protected from the evils of the world, while Stephen had come into his title and position as the master of his family’s estate. He had married Florence, and it had been a love match. True, he had taken care over his illegitimate offspring, but only when his marriage had proved barren and after his wife had died.

“You seem preoccupied, Miss Williams. Are you displeased with the way I am conducting this waltz? I would hate to think myself responsible for preventing you of enjoying it.”

Beth did not know what troubled her most, the very words he had spoken or the sweet concern ringing through them.

“No, no, my lord! You have nothing to reproach yourself for and certainly not your dancing! It is excellent. Please, forgive my loss of concentration. I confess to feeling an extreme weariness over the events of the past few days, what with Mrs Bradley’s passing and the children’s grief.”

Stephen did not reply but gently tightened his hold. Beth found herself with sudden tears in her eyes when she realised he was offering her a quiet comfort when she needed it. When the music ended soon thereafter, Stephen raised her hand to his lips, turned it upward and kissed her wrist, just above the cuff of her glove.

“I very much would like to speak with you, Miss Williams. There still are some matters we must discuss about my children’s future. Does ten o’clock tomorrow morning suits you?”

“Very well, my lord.”

Beth curtsied when Stephen brought her back to her chair. She sat down next to the children who were playing on the carpet with the toys they found under the Christmas tree and watched her employer move around the room and speak to several of his neighbours and senior staff members.

With a pang of unexpected sadness, she noticed how several of the young and unmarried ladies had their eyes glued on Stephen’s tall, elegant frame in black evening coat, golden waistcoat, buff coloured breeches and shiny black Hessian boots. His fine white shirt was of the finest linen and his snowy-white cravat accentuated the strength of his firm jaw.

He was elegant and so very, very male, and amiable to every young lady present. Whenever he addressed them, albeit polite and distant, the girls would batter their eyelashes at him and flush becomingly. Their mamas would show a great deal of teeth and put an affectionate hand on his sleeve to convince him of their approval. Stephen was, Beth realised, a much-coveted widower, still young and handsome and, more to the point extremely wealthy.

To these well-bread members of society, the presence of a young, unattached governess at Brixton Abbey must constitute a genuine thread. Surely, that was the reason why Beth herself had been most pointedly snubbed by all the female guests of the Dowager’s Christmas party.

 

~~~~

 

Mrs Bradley’s death had not solely affected her grandchildren, Lily and Oliver. Beth too had been shaken and hurt when Granny Bradley died because she had always been fond of her father’s former housekeeper. After the tragic death of her mother and her brother Julian, Beth’s father was in sore need of a housekeeper and a female presence in the house for fourteen-year-old Beth. Granny Bradley, who needed the meagre salary Vicar Williams offered her to raise the twins, gladly and thankfully took on the task. It had been only natural that Beth renewed the bonds of affection with Granny and the children after she came back from France. She had always felt very safe and loved in Granny’s presence.

That was only one of the reasons why Beth had finally decided she would return to England, besides the fact she wanted the master of Brixton Abbey to atone for the death of her relatives. She had been struck by a wave of homesickness when both her father and her aunt passed away. Who better than to turn to than Granny Bradley and go back to her childhood village?

During her stay at Brixton Abbey, Beth had become acutely aware of one notion; she had developed a great love for Lily and Oliver. So deep an affection that she forced herself to come back – even after Stephen wounded her with his caddish behaviour – and make sure the children were taken care of.

Now, that request had been fulfilled. Lily and Oliver bore the Fenton name and would have a share of their father’s fortune.

Beth was free from the promise she made to Granny Bradley. She was free to leave Brixton Abbey and start another life. A life away from Stephen Fenton.

Z: The Beginning of Everything – (tv series) Amazon Prime – Released January 27th

Z is a biography series based on the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern Belle who becomes the original flapper and icon of the wild, flamboyant Jazz Age in the 20s. Starring Christina Ricci (Monster) as Zelda Fitzgerald, Z starts before she meets the unpublished writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gavin Stenhouse, Allegiance), and moves through their passionate, turbulent love affair and their marriage-made in heaven, lived out in hell as the celebrity couple of their time. The series travels through the wild parties, the wicked jazz, the dissolute artists of the era, as well as the alcoholism, adultery and struggle with dashed dreams and mental illness that characterizes their later years.

https://youtu.be/op5hWLbxQGY

 

Who is Jack Lowden ?

Rising star Jack Lowden grew up in the Scottish Borders. He graduated from the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2011. He has had enormous success on stage in leading roles, including his performance as Oswald in Ibsen’s “Ghosts”, for which he won both the Ian Charleson Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2014; the play was filmed and is available to view online. After an assortment of television and film appearances, his breakout international screen role has been as Nikolai Rostov (Natasha’s brother) in the six-hour BBC miniseries War & Peace (2016), leading to an array of leading roles in films.  Born June 2, 1990 – IMDb Mini Biography By: angelofvic

Jack Lowden

 

Coming in April – True Story

 

 

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Eighteen

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Eighteen – A Time For Reflection

 

Mrs Bradley’s funeral occurred on the Tuesday before Christmas 1819. It was a remarkable event with the whole village and the occupants of Brixton Abbey attending the service at St Mary’s church. The Reverend Mr Carter, assisted by his curate, Mr Sage, moved the congregation to tears with his praise of Mrs Bradley’s virtues, all of which were only very true, as Stephen knew.

His children were sitting very still and white-faced, clasping their governess’ hands as they sat on both sides of her. Stephen could clearly see their distress but also, their braveness in mastering their tears and controlling their grief. Beth, he noticed, did not weep at all but sat very upright and solemn in her black mourning clothes. He was unsure if her apparent aloofness was a good thing. He would have preferred some tears over this rigid control.

When the service was finally over, and they had laid Granny Bradley to rest beside her daughter Molly, the congregation split. The Dowager took the children to the carriage where their father was waiting for them. As her charges had no immediate need for her, Beth’s steps were drawn to Granny’s cottage before she could help it. She pushed open the door and a huge gulf of grief suddenly gripped her. Granny … dearest Granny, who took her in after Beth finally came back to the place of her youth … How was she supposed to continue now? Whom could she turn to if ever she would be in need of a comforting presence in her life? With a sob, breaking from her, Beth sank into Granny’s chair by the hearth and wept.

 

~~~~

 

After Stephen sent his mother and the children back to the Abbey, he followed Beth when she directed her steps to the cottage. The look of sheer forlornness in her eyes had thoroughly alarmed him. He wanted to watch over her because he knew she was upset. The unexpected sight of her, huddled in a chair and sobbing her heart out, appalled him.

He ached to comfort her – no, to take her in his arms and hold her close but … He sighed inwardly with suppressed frustration. Had he not spoiled his chances of winning her heart by his rude, lustful behaviour, he might not have to restrain himself so.

Yet, Stephen knew all too well he would have to be careful not to shock Beth with brusque manners, lest she would again think him a confessed cad.

So, he waited patiently for her to put her hands down from her face and stare at him in surprise and dismay. With some awkwardness, she began searching her pockets for a handkerchief, which she failed to find, whereupon he presented his own large white one to her.

“Come on, Miss Williams,” he said evenly. “It is not at all in your nature to be so downcast. Normally, you tackle setbacks with fortitude and alacrity. Do so now, too. The children will need you at the Abbey.”

His rather blunt approach seemed to do the trick for Beth obediently rose while she blew her nose and wiped her eyes with his handkerchief. She glided past him without a word and left the cottage, clutching – at least – at some shred of her dignity.

 

~~~~

 

Christmas came at last. Stephen and his mother went out of the ordinary to make it a memorable one for Lily and Oliver and so – the baron observed – did the whole household staff, including his governess. Everybody wanted the children to feel less forlorn about their grandmother’s death.

Henrietta took the children with her in the carriage when she visited the tenants. She encouraged them to talk to them and give them presents. A sure way for Lily and Oliver, she knew, to become familiar with the many tasks of the gentry they belonged to from now on.

Stephen made them ride over the estate with him and taught them the names of the staff members who were of vital importance to the day-to-day workings of Brixton Abbey. Especially Oliver soon became acquainted with Mr and Mrs Robinson, the steward and his family. They were a friendly couple with three children, the eldest of them a boy of Oliver’s own age, by the name of Crispin.

To her own surprise, Lily found herself liking Mrs Tremayne a lot, whose husband was the home farmer. The Tremaynes were young and had been married for only a year and Mrs Tremayne was expecting her first baby in the spring.

Mr Darton, the game keeper, was more to Oliver’s liking. He was impressed by the man’s knowledge on the woodlands and promised himself to go out with Mr Barton frequently as soon as spring returned.

Beth, on the other hand, planned outings for her charges with the head gardener, Mr Burrows, and his helpers, who took the three of them with him into the woods to collect greenery and berries. Afterwards, the children and Beth helped the indoor maids to decorate the Great Hall and stairways with holly and fur branches and mistletoe. They had so much fun that Stephen was drawn out of his study by the giggles and laughter. Mrs Banton, the housekeeper, was trying in vain to keep the excitement down but, as soon as the baron appeared in the hall, voices died down instantly. Stephen felt himself growing irritated! Was he such a tyrant, then, that the maids cowered when he entered? Even Beth seemed startled and was staring at him with big brown eyes.

“Oh, Papa!” Lily’s high-pitched voice rang. “Come and join us! This is so much fun!”

The awkward mood was instantly chased away and soon, Stephen found himself standing on a ladder to attach some greenery to the post of a hallway door or to a chandelier, with Lily and Beth handing him branches of various shrubs. To his amazement, he enjoyed it a great deal, especially when Lily handed him a branch of mistletoe and ordered him to place it in the drawing room doorway.

“Why here, Lily?” Stephen asked. “Why not in the library door?”

“Because the drawing room is the one we use most, silly! We pass this door the most so you will have the greatest opportunity to kiss under the mistletoe here!”

“Oh? Is that what it is used for? I did not know that!” Stephen said, pretending not to know, but he winked at Beth, who suddenly blushed violently. He was absolutely delighted by that!

 

~~~~

 

Yet, Stephen had to wait until Christmas Day and the party his mother gave before he had a chance of coming close enough to Beth to have a private moment with her. She had stubbornly and most efficiently avoided being alone with him during the last few weeks and he was growing very irritated with that.

Finally, the Christmas dinner party saw the Abbey’s friends and neighbours assembled around Henrietta’s table in a quiet but comforting gathering. Lily and Oliver had been officially presented as the Baron’s heirs. Stephen’s neighbours were delighted to make the children’s acquaintance and treated them with affection and good humour.

Beth, who had been presented as the children’s governess, had not expected the unaffected friendliness of the guests. She was being treated as an equal, she realised with surprise and several of the young, unattached gentlemen politely asked her to reserve a dance for them. Yet, when the dancing began, Stephen forestalled every other suitor by claiming a waltz right away. He had the immense satisfaction of seeing Beth startled yet again.

“A waltz, my lord? But … I did not think I was supposed to be attending the dance … I …”

“You are requested here tonight, Miss Williams. It is obligatory to attend the baroness’ Christmas party. And, now that you are here, it is also capital that you grant me this waltz. People would think you rude and impolite.”

The musicians struck up the introduction to “Invitation to the Dance” from the German composer Carl Maria von Weber who just made a name for himself with a new opera in Dresden, Germany.

Without further ado, Stephen put his arm on Beth’s waist and drew her with him onto the dance floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Collection – (tv series) Premiers February 10th on Amazon Prime

The Collection focuses on an illustrious Paris fashion house, emerging from the dark days of the Occupation. It is centered on two very different brothers. Coyle plays Paul Sabine, the couturier with a romantic vision he hopes will resuscitate a beleaguered, post-war Paris. Riley plays his brother Claude, the true but hidden genius behind the Sabine label. Gummer is Paul’s American wife, an expat who has lived in Paris for 10 years. The Sabines’ mother (de la Tour) is a scheming matriarch who will stop at nothing to use her sons to help achieve her own thwarted ambitions. Jenna Thiam (The Returned) is Nina, the working-class daughter of Sabine’s chief seamstress and the unexpected beauty who becomes the iconic face of the label.

7 episodes

Richard Coyle, Tom Riley, Frances de la Tour, Mamie Gummer, and Jenna Thiam.