Between Boredom and Brilliance – Part Eight

Emma 2009

Chapter Eight – The Eltons or the Vanity Worshippers


Emma could not decide which feeling was the most exciting; on the one hand, she was thrilled to      hear of troubles    at the vicarage while on the other hand, she heard a little voice in her head, warning her to be cautious.

“Harriet, are you in earnest? At the vicarage?” she inquired, unable to keep the excitement out of her voice.

“Yes, yes! Oh, Emma, you are not going to believe this!” Harriet squeaked in delight.

“What is it, then? I am dying to hear it, Harriet!”

Her friend surreptitiously looked around as if there were people lurking behind the draperies and eavesdropping on them. She bent over to Emma and spoke softly in her ear.

“It appears that the purse strings of the vicar’s household are entirely under his wife’s control and that she is spending funds as if they were water.”

Emma drew her brows together as she was failing to see this as something out of the ordinary.

“Mrs Elton comes from a very wealthy family and the vicar had independent and affluent means of his own. I cannot understand why you would think it so uncommon to spend your money on the improvement of comfort in the home, Harriet.”

“Ah!” Harriet continued triumphantly. “You do not know the extent of the lady’s spending, Emma! She has fixed it in her head that she will have bathing facilities that are comparable to the ones Prinny installed in his Brighton palace.”

Emma’s jaw dropped. “No! Oh, my goodness!”

“Yes,” Harriet beamed, “and that is just the beginning! Listen to this …”


Not long thereafter, Emma arrived at Hartfield in a veritable state of agitation. She threw her bonnet and pelisse onto the sofa in the hall and immediately went in search of her husband.

George Knightley was in his newly equipped study, which had been one of the downstairs morning rooms at the back of the house and overlooking the rose garden. When he heard Emma’s hastily approaching footsteps, he sighed and put down his pen. He was fairly sure no work would be achieved as long as Emma wanted to share gossip.

“My love!” Emma cried and let herself down into a chair at George’s desk, facing him. “Please, come with me, at this very moment! We need to go pay a visit to the vicarage.”

“Why, dearest? What religious matters would you want to discuss with our good Mr Elton?”

“Religious matters? No, no, no, George, you mistake me! I must see what alterations Mrs Elton has put into place. According to Harriet Martin, they are huge and mind-boggling. Come, George, I need you to distract the two of them so that I can retreat to the lady’s room and go sneak into the other rooms in the process.”

When Emma was in this state of mind, George knew she was not to be deterred so he gave in and accompanied her to the vicarage. As it was once again a beautiful sunny day, Mr and Mrs Knightley preferred walking to the large, elegant house, situated on a small knoll  in Highbury’s centre. They ascended the flight of stairs leading to the front door. George tapped it lightly with the silver knob that crowned his walking stick. Pretty young Bessie Dawkins, the parlour maid, opened soon and let them into a stately drawing room which – to Emma’s surprise – appeared to be newly upholstered in dark green silk for the walls and wine red velvet for the draperies. Under their feet was a thick new Aubusson carpet in rich browns and greens. This upholstery must have cost a pretty penny, Emma mused.

“George, look at the expensive niceties in this room! And this is only a drawing room for visitors! I wonder what the rest of the house will look like!”

If George had wanted to give an opinion on this, he had to swallow it because the door swung open to let their hostess in. Mrs Elton’s attire was extravagant, to say the least. She wore a bright red silk day gown with a daringly low neckline and an exaggerated amount of lace petticoats that peeped out from under the hem of the dress. On her feet were high-heeled scarlet pumps and her hair was piled up high on her head with ringlets falling in her neck and next to her small ears. On her throat, a row of diamonds shone and large diamond earrings hung from her earlobes.

How ridiculous, Emma thought. This woman would forever dress as if she was going to attend a ball!

“Dear Mr and Mrs Knightley,” Mrs Elton chirped, her wide smile not reaching her eyes. “What an unexpected pleasure, indeed! You must accompany me to the morning room and I shall ring for tea.”

She swept out of the room and preceded her guests to a room at the back, overlooking the large garden. Here too, the upholstery had been recently replaced by a more expensive one.

Emma searched for the appropriate words to broach the subject in a sufficiently innocent way so as not to stir any suspicions in her hostess.

“This is such a nice room, Mrs Elton, and you have decorated it so wonderfully! Where have you found those lovely fabrics, if I may be so bold to ask?”

Mrs Elton beamed with pride when she replied, “In London, of course! Only the best for our home, Mrs Knightley! As you well know, Bath, Bristol or even Brighton are inadequate when it comes to quality.”

Now it was George’s turn to admire the furnishings and the conversation rippled on for several minutes about fabric and tapestry, when the vicar entered the room, a thick leather-covered book in his hands.

“Ah, Mr Knightley, sir! So very good to see you! I wonder if I might impose upon your vast knowledge on first editions. I am quite sure that this one is a first for “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, written by that scoundrel Byron. One of my London book suppliers brought it to my attention and I would very much like to have your opinion on it.”

“Lord Byron? Oh, such a romantically inspired poet!” Mrs Elton exclaimed. “My dear Mr Elton, I want to see it too!”

Emma saw an opportunity to leave the room as she asked to be brought to a lady’s retiring room. Mrs Elton waved her hand toward the door and chirped, “Just ask Bessie to bring you to it, Mrs Knightley!”

Suppressing a sigh of relief, Emma slipped out of the morning room. Bessie brought her to a small room upstairs and left. After she heard Bessie’s footsteps die away, Emma tiptoed out and began to open doors in a methodical way. Every single room she inspected, was newly upholstered in expensive furnishings and fabrics. The last door revealed a bathroom, complete with a double copper bath and taps that shone like gold. Emma had never seen anything lovelier than this. She shuddered at the thought of how much all this must have cost.

She was quietly closing the bathroom door when a voice sounded next to her ear.

“What are you doing here, Mrs Knightley? It seems that you are prying shamelessly!”

Emma turned and saw the frowning face of Mr Elton only inches from hers.



The Four Feathers (2002)

Synopsis by Mark Deming

A.E.W. Mason’s perennially popular tale of honor and adventure is brought to the screen yet again in this lavish period action-drama. In 1884, Harry Feversham (Heath Ledger) is a young officer-in-training in the British Army who is soon to graduate and is expected to be shipped of to the Sudan, where the King’s military are battling Muslim insurgents who are attempting to overturn English colonial rule. Feversham, however, has developed serious ethical reservations about going along, and on the eve of his departure, he resigns his commission. Feversham’s best friend and fellow officer Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley) in response presents him with a white feather (a symbol of cowardice), and two of his classmates follow suit. Ethne Eustace (Kate Hudson), Feversham’s fiancée, presents him with a fourth white feather shortly before breaking off their engagement. Sufficiently humbled, Feversham attempts to win back his honor and the respect of his family and friends by secretly becoming an undercover operative in the Sudan. His initial attempts to pose as an Arab are not especially convincing, but he makes friends with Abou Fatma (Djimon Hounsou), a local sympathetic with the British cause who proves to be a valuable source of insider information and advice on how to blend with the rebels. Meanwhile, Durrance is briefly ordered back to England to help recruit new soldiers for the colonial forces, and he takes the opportunity to begin wooing Eustace, the former flame of his former friend. This adaptation is the fifth film version of The Four Feathers, following two silent screen adaptations (released in 1915 and 1928), Zoltan Korda’s memorable 1939 version, and a 1977 made-for-TV movie.

Source: The Four Feathers (2002) – Shekhar Kapur |



The Four Feathers

Mrs. Brown 1997

  Mrs.BrownThe film tells the story of Queen Victoria (played by Dame Judi Dench) and her relationship with a Scottish servant, John Brown (played by comedian Billy Connolly), and the subsequent uproar it provoked. Brown had been a trusted servant of Victoria’s then deceased consort, Prince Albert; Victoria’s chief servants thought Brown might help to ease the Queen’s deep, apparently inconsolable, grief over the prince consort’s death in 1861. To help ease the Queen toward resuming public life after years of secluded mourning, Brown is summoned to court… more of the Wikipedia articleJudi Dench won Best Actress for BAFTA and Golden Globes and was nominated for Best Actress for Academy Awards and SAG Awards. Billy Connelly was nominated for BAFTA best supporting actor.This is one of my favourite films – I loved watching how the relationship evolved between Queen Victoria and Mr.Brown and how he drew her out of her mourning over Prince Albert.


Source: Enchanted Serenity of Period Films: Mrs. Brown

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, and Dominic Cooper star in screenwriter Andrew Davies’ adaptation of the classic Jane Austen tale of love and class conflict. Marianne Dashwood (Wakefield) has fallen deeply in love with John Willoughby (Cooper), yet despite their feelings for one another the wealthy Willoughby is considered an improper suitor for the financially destitute girl. Marianne’s sister Elinor (Morahan)’s pleads with her sibling to end the romance or risk becoming the subject of gossip in their chatty social circle, all the while struggling to suppress her own romantic disappointment. So how does one find happiness in a society where the rules are set according to status and money? Perhaps a winning mix of sense and sensibility is the key to striking a harmonious balance, and living a life without regrets.



Between Boredom and Brilliance – Part Seven

Emma 2009

Chapter Seven – The Martins or the Salt of the Earth




Abbey Mill Farm was part of the Donwell Abbey estate and, although Emma used to roam the vast expanse of George’s grounds and lands frequently before she married, she had , however, never been to the farm. Her abominable pride and vanity always kept her far from the dwellings of people like Robert Martin. The reason why this had been the case was simple; a farmer might very well know Emma Woodhouse, but why should Emma Woodhouse know a farmer.

Emma’s shame about her former attitude was very real and very deserved. As she came nearer to the establishment, Emma immediately noticed the neat, orderly state it was in. The house itself was clean and in good repair, flowers on every window sill, and the woodwork freshly painted bright red. The surrounding flower garden and adjacent herb garden were in full summer bloom, lovely scents filling the air. The farm yard was bustling with activity, farm hands running to and fro, milk maids carrying their pails to the dairy house, and dray drivers manoeuvring their heavily laden vehicles in and out. The orchestrator of all this stood in the midst of it; Robert Martin, tall and well-built, gave directions and orders to each servant under his command and seemed to overlook it all with quiet confidence.

Emma hesitated before she stepped closer. What would Mr Martin think of her sudden visit? Would she even be welcome? Did he know how reluctant she had been about his proposal to Harriet and how she convinced Harriet to refuse him? Emma sincerely hoped he had no knowledge of this, otherwise she would never be able to look him in the eye.

At that precise moment, Robert Martin’s gaze fell upon her. His face – handsome in a ruddy, healthy-looking way – remained unchanged but in his pale blue eyes something shifted. Emma felt a pang of fear when she realised he knew exactly what she had done in the past. She must apologize and do it in a humbling way if she wanted to keep his wife as a friend and be welcome at the farm in the future.

“My dear Mr Martin,” she ventured, a bright smile on her face, “I hope I find you and your family in good health?”

“Mrs Knightley, ma’am, thank you for your concern. Yes, all my family are well. What brings you here, this morning? I think you will find Harriet in the dairy shed.”

“Mr Martin, I must confess that I am in need of your forgiveness for my behaviour, and my meddling in your affairs regarding Harriet. I offer you my most humble apologies and hope you find not hold my former attitude against me. Harriet is my best and most valuable friend, and I would be deeply chagrined to lose her.”

A sudden blush in Mr Martin’s face told Emma that her words surprised but also pleased him. She offered her hand to him, and he took it and pressed it affectionately.

“Dear Mrs Knightley, please, do not think about it anymore. What is done, is done. Please, feel free to visit us at any time you deem appropriate. You are most welcome at Abbey Mill Farm.”

“Thank you, Mr Martin. I believe I shall go to the dairy house at present.”

Emma curtsied as she would have done to a gentleman and, to her delighted surprise, Mr Martin bowed deeply from the waist.


In the dairy house – a spotless outbuilding next to the kitchen, with white-washed walls and shining grey floor tiles – Emma found Harriet and a few young women busying themselves with the various procedures of handling milk. One of them was churning butter, another was ladling cottage cheese into small bowls and a third one was putting cheese wheels onto shelves to dry. Harriet was ticking off finished items on a list and smiled brightly when Emma entered the room.

“Darling Emma!” she exclaimed, threw down her list and flung her arms around Emma with a squeal of happiness. “Oh, Emma, I am so delighted to see you! I was afraid that you would never come to visit me at Abbey Mill Farm, knowing how much you hated farms. Do come into the house, if you please? My mother-in-law will have tea and biscuits ready. She will have heard of your arrival the minute you set foot into the yard!”

Harriet was right. The elder Mrs Martin was thrilled to have the distinguished Mrs Knightley visiting her, and she bowed Emma into her parlour with great deference. An enjoyable half hour followed, and the three women took tea and gossiped about a lot of Highbury’s villagers, drawing great satisfaction from it.

Emma inquired about Mr Martin’s sisters who were a few years younger and still unmarried. Mrs Martin hastened to explain that her daughters were presently visiting the gypsies.

“Really?” Emma asked, furrowing her brow in surprise. “I would have thought you would be afraid of these people, Mrs Martin. Harriet – poor girl – has been attacked by them, not six months ago, and she was in a state of utter misery after that.”

“Mrs Knightley is right, Mama-in-law,” Harriet confirmed. “But, dearest Emma, the gypsies that presently occupy the Donwell Abbey grounds are not the same circle of families that were here before. Your esteemed husband, Mr Knightley vouched for them in person and told us they would keep to themselves. Robert’s sisters have gone to visit on the specific request of the families’ elder. They have some sick children and their medicines did not cure them. So my sisters-in-law took some of our own medicines to help them out.”

“Yes, and they will be back soon,” Mrs Martin said, rising from her chair. “If you will excuse me, Mrs Knightley, I must go and see to the luncheon preparations.” She curtsied and left the room.

“Finally, we are alone!” Emma chuckled. “Dear Harriet, how are you getting on gathering news items for our paper?”

Harriet suddenly beamed with glee and drew closer to her friend.

“Well, an impeccable source told me that something is seriously amiss at the vicarage!”



Michael Gambon to play Winston Churchill in new ITV drama – CultBox

Michael Gambon to play Winston Churchill in new ITV drama

by William Martin

ITV has commissioned a new one-off drama about Sir Winston Churchill set in the 1950s.Churchill’s Secret will star Michael Gambon (Harry Potter) as Churchill and Lindsay Duncan (Birdman) as Clementine Churchill.

The feature-length film is based on Jonathan Smith’s recently published book, The Churchill Secret: KBO, and adapted by Stewart Harcourt (Treasure Island).

ITV’s director of Drama Steve November commented: “Churchill’s Secret is the extraordinary and compelling story of how one of our country’s most famous political figures battled back from life-threatening illness to hold on to power.”

The official synopsis reads: “Set during the summer months of 1953 Churchill—now Prime Minister for the second time and in his late 70’s—suffers a life-threatening stroke, which is kept secret from the world.“

Told from the viewpoint of his young Nurse, Millie Appleyard, the drama follows his battle to recover as his long suffering wife Clemmie desperately hopes the stroke will force Winston to retire while his political friends and foe scheme to plot who will succeed him.“

Meanwhile his adult children descend on Chartwell, unsure if he will pull through, as tensions within his family begin to surface.”

Directed by Charles Sturridge (Da Vinci’s Demons, The Road to Coronation Street), Churchill’s Secret will begin filming next month in London and at Churchill’s principal family home, Chartwell in Kent.

Source: Michael Gambon to play Winston Churchill in new ITV drama – CultBox

How Creating Outlander’s Amazing Costumes Led to a Surprising Historical Discovery

rs_634x1024-150515065615-634.Outlander-JR-51515Outlander StarzIf only history class looked like Outlander, then we would have done so much better in school. (Although if our professor looked like Sam Heughan, we probably would have failed. Because we’d just be staring at him and daydreaming and generally not paying attention. Can you blame us?!)But when executive producer Ron D. Moore and his wife, Emmy Award-winning costume designer Terry Dresbach, sat down to start creating all of the amazingly authentic looks of Outlander’s characters, they had no idea they were in for the lesson of their lives…because what they thought they were going to dress their cast in was actually historically inaccurate!MORE: Outlander boss previews those “controversial” dark scenes aheadOutlander, The Grove Starz”When Terry started doing research into what they actually wore, we were all surprised that a lot of our preconceptions of tartans and plaids and kilts was actually not true to the period,” Moore tells E! News at the unveiling of “A Tartan Affair,” the public exhibit of all the costumes from the Starz drama at The Grove in LA. “A lot of what we have come to think of traditional tartans are those bright yellows and reds and greens that you see in tourist shops but evidently that all comes out of a 19th century romantic revival of Scottish culture. But in our period, in the 1740s, they didn’t wear any of that.”What Moore and Dresbach found to be the most surprising part of creating the costumes was the process of figuring out exactly what the Highlanders wore.”As part of our story, the Battle of Culloden comes up and the Highland culture is essentially wiped out after that and they forbade the wearing of the kilt and tartans, so all of that culture is gone,” Moore says. “There’s very, very little historical reference to it. There’s no paintings of it because paintings tend to be about the aristocracy. Terry told me there’s one piece of an original Highlander kilt that they pulled out of a bog or something. She really had to go back and design from scratch because everything we thought about the culture and what the people wore turned out to be a later interpretation of it. It’s interesting to go back historically and discover what the truth was. And that became the most challenging part of designing all the kilts and dresses as well.”We had to weave the fabric ourselves, come up with our own dyes and patterns,” Moore says. “It was all a big process of research and learning and deciding how to build our take on their culture.”But all their hard work paid off—have you seen the incredible craftsmanship of each original costume? The detail on every single one is just amazing. According to Moore, that’s been the most rewarding part of creating all the costumes: “Seeing the actors wear them.””When the actors actually put them on they have this lived in look which I thought was really important for the show, so it didn’t look like it just came off the costume truck and they’re perfect,” Moore says. “I like how, if you look closely, some of the Highlander outfits have homemade patches and places they’ve been sewn as if they’ve been torn and ripped. We have a big aging and dying department that beats the crap out of the clothes so that they look like they’re worn and dirty. So whenever the actors walk around in them, they look like clothes as opposed to costumes.

Source: How Creating Outlander’s Amazing Costumes Led to a Surprising Historical Discovery | E! Online

BBC to dramatise the lives of the Brontë sisters

Sally Wainwright will write and direct a new BBC drama about the literary sisters

Source: BBC to dramatise the lives of the Brontë sisters

The difficult home life of the Brontës will be brought to life in a new BBC One drama about the literary sisters, written and directed by Last Tango In Halifax author Sally Wainwright.

The one-off, two-hour drama will follow Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë’s relationship with each other and their brother Branwell, who in the last three years of his life was plagued by alcoholism and drug addiction.

To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters will be filmed in and around Yorkshire, where the most famous sisters of English literature lived.

Casting is yet to be announced for the drama, which has been described as “an original perspective on the Brontë sisters”.

BBC One controller Charlotte Moore said: “The Brontë sisters have always been enigmatic but Sally Wainwright’s brilliantly authentic new BBC One drama brings the women behind some of our greatest literary masterpieces to life.

“It’s an extraordinary tale of family tragedy and their passion and determination, against the odds, to have their genius recognised in a male 19th century world.”

Bafta-winning writer Wainwright, whose other credits include TV series Happy Valley, said of the drama: “I am thrilled beyond measure that I’ve been asked by the BBC to bring to life these three fascinating, talented, ingenious Yorkshire women.”

The drama explores the siblings’ relationship with each other and their self-educated father, who grew up in an impoverished home in rural Ireland and encouraged his children – irrespective of their gender – to become passionate about literature.

It also portrays their “increasingly difficult relationship with their brother Branwell, who in the last three years of his life – following a tragically misguided love affair – sank into alcoholism, drug addiction and appalling behaviour”.

Charlotte, arguably the most talented of the three sisters, died at the age of 38. Her most famous novel, Jane Eyre, was published in 1847 and was an instant success.

Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, while Anne, the youngest of the three, penned The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall.

It also portrays their “increasingly difficult relationship with their brother Branwell, who in the last three years of his life – following a tragically