It’s National Notebook Day!

Today is National Notebook Day and I am absolutely here for it!

I think my love of notebooks/journals began when I was a kid. I’ve always been a list maker—of things to do, places to go, and books to read.

As I got older and those lists began to encompass more and more topics, it was only natural to corral them into journals and notebooks.

Two of my smaller notebooks from The Happy Planner, they easily fit in my book bag.

I don’t use notebooks just for future plans. I also use them to document my daily activities. Doing so is my way of being able to get up from my desk at the end of the day and have tangible proof of my accomplishments—that I actually did stuff—and that’s important to me.

A few of my activity journals from past years.

So in addition to keeping a daily log of activities associated with my writing, I also use notebooks to:

  • Track healthy habits, like my daily walks, exercise routines, and hydration.
  • List places I want to visit on my next trip to England (BTW, I would have to take up residence in England for the next three years to visit all the places on my list!).
  • Jot story ideas and brainstorms, with notes about plots, characters I think would be interesting to write about, book titles, etc.
  • Reading journals for favorite authors or book series.
  • “Punch lists” for my new house. I moved last year, and because of COVID I put off making any improvements or changes to the new place because I didn’t want strangers/tradespeople in my house. So for the last year I’ve been entering tasks in a notebook, with a new page for each room. Now that we’re getting close to lifting restrictions, I can use the notebook as a checklist for all the painting, electrical upgrades, window-cleaning, kitchen remodeling, etc. that needs to be done.
  • Budgeting and financial goals
The notebooks I use on a daily basis stand ready on my desk.

Right now I have about 45 notebooks on my shelf, ready to be placed in service whenever I get a bright idea I want to write down; and the truth is, I’m always on the lookout for journals.  Hardbacks, paperbacks, spiral bound, 3-ring, and disk-bound—all are equally desirable because it’s typically the cover that speaks to me when I’m deciding whether or not I want to buy a journal.

Did I mention I have a lot of notebooks? Here are a few I haven’t used yet.

Do I have a notebook hoarding problem? Absolutely not! I just prefer to celebrate National Notebook Day every day of the year.

And if you love using notebooks and journals, too, I raise my ribbon bookmark to you!

Related Post: New Journal Find

A Royal Romeo and Juliet

Were you as surprised as I was when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary last month? Where has the time gone?!?

It just doesn’t seem that long ago that Prince William and Kate Middleton were married. I remember so clearly getting up early on the big day to watch every moment of television coverage.

Photo of Prince William, dressed in red army tunic decorated with royal orders and Kate Middleton, dressed in white wedding gown and veil. In one hand she carries a bouquet of white flowers; her other hand is in Prince William's.
Prince William and Kate Middleton on their wedding day.

I did the same thing when Prince William’s father Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer; ditto when Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank, and the list goes on!

Lady Diana Spencer climbs the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral on her wedding day as bridesmaids work to unfold the train on her gown.

I guess I’m just a lover of royal weddings, those that occur during my lifetime as well as those from history.

This month marks the 108th anniversary of one of my favorite royal weddings from history—that of Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia and Prince Ernst August of Brunswick-Lhneburg.

It’s at the top of my favorites list because:

  • Viktoria and Ernst married for love.
  • They had to overcome a half a century of enmity between their feuding families.
  • Their wedding was attended by Europe’s great leaders, and marked the last time those monarchs were together before war destroyed their countries and their thrones.
Black and white photo of the princess and prince standing close beside each other.
Princess Viktoria Luise and Prince Ernst August after their engagement.

The feud between Viktoria’s and Prince Ernst’s families began in 1866 when Prussia annexed Hanover and deposed Prince Ernst’s forebears. But in 1912, when Prince Ernst was twenty-four years old, his older brother died in an automobile accident. Prussian Emperor Wilhelm II unexpectedly sent a message of condolence. 

Viktoria’s father, Wilhelm II in one of his many uniforms.

In response, Prince Ernst went to Berlin to personally thank the Emperor for his message. While there, Prince Ernst met and fell in love with the emperor’s only daughter, Princess Viktoria Luise. The Princess would later admit that she had never even heard of Prince Ernst before they met, but “For me, it was love at first sight.”

Now I ask you: Isn’t that a perfectly romantic ending to a fifty-year-old feud?

Black and white postcard dated 1913 with a photo of the prince and princess seated beside each other.
In 1913 postcards like this were circulated all over the world.

In reality there were a lot of complex negotiations that had to be ironed out between the two houses before any formal announcement could be made, but on May 24, 1913 the couple wed.

Princess Viktoria was twenty years old, pretty and vivacious.

Black and white photo of Princess Viktoria wearing a beaded and embroidered gown, several necklaces and rings.
Viktoria Luise of Prussia, daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II and great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria

Prince Ernst was twenty-five, handsome and quiet.

Black and white photo dated 1913 of Prince Ernst August dressed in a military tunic adorned with medals, orders and aiguillettes.
Prince Ernst August, son of Crown Prince Ernst August of Hanover, great grandson of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover, and great-great grandson of George III

The short ceremony was followed by a ceremonial banquet with over 1,100 guests. Among them were the German Emperor Wilhelm II, King George V, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, as well as dozens of lesser rulers and Princes; but it was the last time these three rulers would meet before the world erupted in war and two of those mighty thrones were destroyed.

Black and white photo of the princess dressed in white gown, multi-strand pearl necklace, and tiara with veil; and the prince, dressed in military uniform with frogging, aiguillettes, medals and orders on the tunic.
The prince and princess on their wedding day.

It was Europe’s last great royal wedding, and a fleeting symbol of unity in a world that changed drastically with the onset of World War I the following year.

The couple survived both world wars and had five children together; and if Viktoria’s letters and memoirs are to be believed, she and Prince Ernst lived happily ever after.

The prince and princess dressed in coats and hats, walking together in a park-like setting while holding hands and smiling.
Happy together.

As romantic as their personal story was, Ernst and Viktoria were on the wrong side of history when it came to their conduct during both world wars (but that’s a separate post). If you’d like to read more about their lives, here are some links to get you started:

Prince Ernst August.

Princess Viktoria Luise.

Happiness is a Trip to Target

Sometimes you never know how much you enjoy doing something until you can’t do it anymore.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been hunkered down in my home for the last year, only leaving for the essentials. For most of the last ten months, my world has consisted of my home, the path I walk my dogs down three times a day, and the grocery store. That’s it.

So when my grocery store stopped carrying my preferred brand of dog food, I had to get online and try to find it somewhere else. Target came through for me. Their online inventory showed they had five bags in stock.

Bravely, daringly, I donned nitrile gloves and two masks, and drove to Target last week. My plan was to go directly to the dog food aisle, grab a bag of food, zoom through checkout, and be back in my car before any germ, virus, or lint had a chance to settle on me.

But a funny thing happened when I got inside the store. As I walked past one of my formerly favorite aisles—filled with stationary, journals and office supplies—I heard a siren song I could not resist.

Short story, short: I ended up buying (in addition to dog food) three journals and three matching pens. Aren’t they lovely?

And the really amazing thing was how happy these simple journals and pens made me feel!

Until I saw them, I didn’t realize how much I missed shopping; how good it used to feel to wander through a store, looking at pretty things, wondering how they’d look in my house, or getting inspired to use them as a starting point to create something fresh on my own.

Buying these journals and pens reminded me of all that; and reminded me that one day I’ll get to enjoy shopping again. Just not yet. In the meantime, I’m happy with my new purchase. I keep looking at them and wondering how I’ll use them, and that makes me happy, too.

Thanks, Target, for making me happy.

What made you happy last week?

HEAs for Tragic Characters

Fiction writers are clever people. They just are.

I’m frequently impressed by their ingenuity. There’s nothing I like better than to begin reading a novel—smugly thinking that I’ve already figured out the ending—only to discover the author has crafted a plot that takes a creative turn I hadn’t anticipated.

And aren’t stories with a twist the best kind of stories?

I’ve been reading a series of novels that feature the kinds of twists I’m talking about. Written by award-winning, best-selling authors, each book in the series offers a new take on a classic character from literature.

For starters, each novel is set in Georgian England (my favorite place and time!) and retells a tragic character’s story so he or she has a happily-ever-after ending.

Think about the classic characters who fell from grace because of their greed, envy, misplaced loyalties, or just plain poor decisions: the big bad Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood; or tortured, brooding Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Do they deserve to have their stories retold with a happy ending?

The answer is, Yes, they do!!

Here are the books in the series so far:

The Monster Within, The Monster Without
Author Lindsay Downs retells the story of Frankenstein..

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When bodies start turning up in Whitechapel, Miss Steen returns to London with Lord Cartwright and the Countess of Harlow as her chaperone to solve the murders. Little does she realize she will be introduced to the last person she wants to meet — and hunting down the murderers proves a lot more difficult than they had anticipated.

I Shot the Sheriff
Regina Jeffers reimagines the story of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood

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William de Wendenal, the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham, has come to London, finally having wormed his way back into the good graces of the Royal family. Yet, not all of Society is prepared to forgive his former “supposed” transgressions, especially the Earl of Sherwood.

However, when de Wendenal is wounded in an attempt to protect Prince George from an assassin, he becomes caught up in a plot involving stolen artwork, kidnapping, murder, and seduction that brings him to Cheshire where he must willingly face a gun pointed directly at his chest and held by the one woman who stirs his soul, Miss Patience Busnick, the daughter of a man de Wendenal once escorted to prison.

The Colonel’s Spinster
Author Audrey Harrison gives Pride and Prejudice’s Colonel Fitzwilliam the story he deserves.

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Colonel Fitzwilliam is a second son, often overshadowed by his titled, older brother and his cousin, Mr. Darcy. Returning from Waterloo, he knows it is time to find a wife with a healthy dowry, but he longs for a love match. Unfortunately for Fitzwilliam, love doesn’t put food on the table.

Miss Prudence Bamber has never known her mother’s family. A woman with her own mind and full life, she indulges her father’s wish to visit her long-lost relations. Mr. Bamber hopes his daughter will find a husband; she wishes nothing more than to find out more about her mother’s history. It turns out to be a journey she won’t forget in a hurry.

Fated Hearts
Alina K. Field retells the story of Macbeth

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Plagued by hellish memories and rattling visions of battle to come, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved. They’re not the young lovers they once were, but when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.

They soon discover, it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy, who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever. When his lady falls into a trap, can he reach her in time to rescue this love that never died?

 

The Redemption of Heathcliff
Author Alanna Lucas offers a new take on the haunting love story of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw

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Her wild ways tamed, Catherine Earnshaw has launched into London society. Only none of her marriage-mart suitors excite her because her heart still lies with another; whatever happened to Heathcliff, her childhood soul mate?

Markus Bell left Yorkshire to find his true identity and turn a fortune. Now the talk of the ton, he has Catherine in his sights, not to woo her but to seek revenge; he can’t forgive how she spurned him.

Catherine is puzzled where the gossip dogging her through the season comes from. Until she meets Markus, who’s as dark and devilishly handsome as her Heathcliff, and her world is turned upside down. Markus is her Heathcliff, she’s sure of it, just as she suspects he’s behind the rumors. What is she to do when her reputation is almost in tatters, yet her love for him is as strong as it ever was when they roamed the moors together all those years ago?

Captain Stanwick’s Bride
Author Regina Jeffers retells Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish”

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Captain Whittaker Stanwick has a successful military career and a respectable home farm in Lancashire. What he does not have in his life is felicity. Therefore, when the opportunity arrives, following his wife’s death, Stanwick sets out to know a bit of happiness, at last—finally to claim a woman who stirs his soul. Yet, he foolishly commits himself to one woman only weeks before he has found a woman, though shunned by her people and his, who touches his heart. Will he deny the strictures placed upon him by society in order learn the secret of happiness is freedom: Freedom to love and freedom to know courage?

See what I mean about clever writers? I love the idea of giving these beloved characters a chance at happiness, and the romantic streak in me appreciates the beautiful love stories these wonderful authors have created.

I think anyone who loves to read can think of a tragic character or two they’d like to see reformed and given a chance at true love. What about Caroline Bingley from Pride and Prejudice? Or Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby? Or poor doomed Ophelia from Hamlet?

Which tragic character from literature would you like to see find true love and have a happy ending? 

My Royal Pen-Pal, Prince Charles

I can’t remember when exactly I first became enchanted by all things English, but my obsession had to have started when I was pretty young.

By the time I reached my early teens, I was a bigger fan of the Beatles and England’s royal family than I was of any American entertainer I could name.

In 1969 I was 14 years old, and it seemed to me the most natural thing in the world to follow all the news that year about the royal family’s plans to celebrate Prince Charles’ 21st birthday.

I knew all about the preparations—that Prince Charles admired Mozart, so violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin was engaged to play Mozart’s masterpieces at his party. And that Charles was an amateur cellist, so Maurice Gendron—the world’s premier cellist at the time—would also play. To me, it all sounded elegant and lovely and veddy, veddy British.

So I did what any royalty-obsessed 14 year old American girl would do. I sent Prince Charles a birthday card. And I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done.

At 14 I didn’t know anything about postage costs, and I’m pretty certain I dropped the card in a mailbox with only a single U.S. postage stamp affixed to the envelope. Kudos to our postal system at the time (and to the U.K.’s as well) because my card arrived at Buckingham Palace (probably with postage due) in time for Prince Charles’ birthday on November 14, 1969.

How do I know it arrived? Because I received a reply.

A month after Prince Charles’ birthday shindig, I came home from school to find this waiting for me:

At first I didn’t know what it was, so I was a little rough when I tore open the envelope. But when I saw the letter inside, I was first surprised, then astonished.

Never in my wildest fourteen-year-old dreams did I expect to receive a reply to the birthday card I sent!

I showed the letter to my mother when she got home from work, and she promptly carried the letter up and down the street to show all the neighbors.

Heaven only knows if Prince Charles ever actually saw the card I sent, or if my card went directly into the rubbish bin once his secretary made a note of its receipt; but the important thing for me was that I received a reply. The whole experience had such an impact on me, I’ve kept the letter all these years with just a few other treasured mementos from childhood.

That’s the story of how December 11 became something of a special anniversary for me (since that was the postmark date on the envelope). But more important, it’s the date that marks the end a two-month long, two-item pen-pal correspondence I had with Prince Charles that made me feel special, and earned me thirty minutes of fame in my neighborhood.

 

 

It’s Banned Books Week; You Know What To Do

Recognize any of these book titles?

Each of these books was banned or under consideration to be banned in the United States of America.

If you love to read, you already know about the transformative power of books.

You also know how to take a book from a store shelf, skim the first few pages, and put it back as you say to yourself, “No, that book’s not for me.”

And yet there are people in this world who want to take that experience away; people who want to substitute their own judgment for yours, and tell you what you can and should read.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks challenged and banned books, and has some interesting statistics and graphics on the topic, which you can view on their website.

You can also visit BannedBooksWeek.org to see a schedule of events and read-alongs being held this week.

Banned Books Week may seem like an obscure cause to celebrate, but for me it’s an important one. Among other things, it serves as a reminder to me to support authors who have been challenged—and sometimes vilified—for writing the stories that were in their hearts.

I hope you’ll join me and tune in to Banned Books Week, and celebrate your right to read the books you love.

 

 

 

 

The Georgian Card Game of Tontine

In Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet spent a few nights at Netherfield Park so she could nurse her ill sister, Jane. The first evening, after Jane had finally fallen asleep, Elizabeth ventured downstairs to join Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, his sister Caroline, and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst.

Mr. Darcy, Caroline Bingley, and Charles Bingley play a game of loo at Netherfield in the 1985 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.

On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high she declined it, and making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below, with a book. Mr. Hurst looked at her with astonishment.
“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.”

There was a new card game just beginning to make the rounds in 1797, the same year in which Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice. In their October issue that year Sporting Magazine took great delight in publishing the rules of the game of Tontine, writing:

The rules we here give for playing this game are entirely new; nothing of this having yet been published for the game it is almost unknown in London, except in the polite circles of Fashion.

If you’re a writer (or reader) of Regency era fiction or romance, and you’d like to give your characters a new game to play besides Whist, Loo, Piquet or Lottery Tickets, Tontine may be the game you’re looking for.

Here are the rules:

Tontine may be played by twelve or fifteen persons; but the more the merrier.

It is played with an entire pack of fifty-two cards. Before they begin, every one is to take a stake, consisting of twelve, fifteen, or twenty counters more or less; each of them they value as they please; and at the beginning of the party, each player puts three counters in the box, which is on the middle of the table; then he is to deal, being cut to him by his left hand, turns up a card from the stock, or each player, according to his rank, and gives at the same time one to himself.

The player whose card turned up is a king, draws three counters from the box, for his own profit; if it is a queen he draws two, and for a knave one; he that has a ten, neither draws or pays any thing.

He that has an ace, gives one counter to his left hand neighbour; he that has a deuce gives two to his second left hand neighbour, and he that has a three, gives three to his third left hand neighbour, as his second left-hand neighbour; and he that has a three gives three to his third left hand neighbour

As for him that has a four, he puts two of his counters into the box; a five puts one there; a six two; a seven one; an eight two; and a nine one; observing to pay, and to be paid, exactly what is due.

Then he who is on the right of the first dealer, takes up the cards and deals; and this deal is played in the same manner as the first; and each player deals in his turn.

They who have lost all their counters are dead; but they do not die without hope, seeing that any of them may revive again, by the assistance of an ace, which may be in the hand of his right hand neighbour, for which he receives a counter, or by means of two, which may be in the hand of his second right hand neighbour, for which he receives two counters; or by a three in the hand of his third right hand neighbour, for which he receives three counters.

The player who has a single counter only, has the same right to play as he that has ten or twelve; and if he should lose two or three counters that deal, he can only pay what he has got, and has his discharge.

The deceased players have no cards before them, nor do they deal, though it comes to their turn, unless they are lucky enough to come to life again, then they plan again, just as if they had never died.

Mr. Collins (left) plays a game of whist with Mrs. Philips (right) in the 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice.

He who outlives all the rest, by having counters left, when theirs are gone, wins the parly, and enjoys what the others have deposited.

If you’d like to read the original text as it appeared in Sporting Magazine, click here to view a scanned version of the article.

Now that you have the rules down, are you (or the Regency characters you create) ready to give the game a try? Gather some friends, round up some counters, deal the cards, and good luck!

 

A Georgian Staycation

Yesterday I went to the dentist, which was pretty exciting when you consider it’s the only planned outing I’ve had during the entire month of August.

With the exception of a couple of visits with my son and grand-dog, weekly trips to the grocery store, and daily walks for fresh air and exercise, I have made it my mission to stay at home, where I know it’s safe.

But that mission may soon change. My home state has been documenting a promising trend: a decline in the number of new COVID19 cases, as well as hospitalization rates. I see that as a good sign, and I wonder: Come September or October, will it be safe to venture out a bit further afield than the one square mile that surrounds my house?

I’m not thinking about taking a “real” vacation or heading off to some crowded resort, but if things continue to improve, a staycation might be in order. I could take my cue from Jane Austen, who knew all about staycations.

A view of Bywell Castle, Northumberland, by George Fennel Robson.

When Jane Austen began writing Pride and Prejudice in 1796, Europe was at war. British citizens were cut off from their usual tourist destinations on the Continent. If they wanted to travel, they had to be content with exploring the architecture and delights of nature to be found at home.

Whitton, by Humphry Repton.

That may be why Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner chose a pleasure tour of the Lake District for their summer travels in Pride and Prejudice, and they invited Elizabeth Bennet to come along.

Elterwater and Langdale Pikes, Westmoreland.

Other Britains had similar ideas. It soon became the popular thing to stay in England and visit spa towns and seaside resorts, the Lake and Peak Districts, Devon and Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

Hillsborough Head near Ilfracombe, Devon, by John Frederick Tennant.

From all those domestic staycations sprouted a new industry: travel guides. One guidebook by Thomas West became a best seller.

Title Page for A Guide to the Lakes by Thomas West (1778)

West not only provided directions on how to reach some of the most popular destinations, he made a practice of describing “stations” where tourists could achieve the best and most picturesque views of landscapes and stately homes. Here’s one example:

Proceed through rocky fields and groves to Holker, one mile, the seat of the right honourable Lord George Cavendish; the carriage road is by Cark-Hall. At the top of the hill, there opens a fine view of Furness. Holker-Hall lies at your feet, embosomed in wood; on the left Ulverston bay opens into the great bay and is four miles over. The coast is deeply indented, and the peninsulas are beautifully fringed with wood.

Just as Elizabeth and the Gardiners set off “in pursuit of novelty and amusement” in Pride and Prejudice, Georgians flocked to to the countryside, where they visited monasteries and medieval ruins.

Tintern Abbey, by Frederick Calbert.

Derbyshire was particularly popular with tourists because it offered stately homes (like Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall) with the unmatched scenery of the Peaks.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire.

Some grand estates received so many visitors they printed their own pamphlets so people could take self-guided tours. And historical sites, like Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge, suffered when overly enthusiastic visitors chipped off pieces of stone to take home as souvenirs.

A view of Stonehenge, 1744.

If things keep going well in my home state, I just might take a page out of Jane Austen’s proverbial tour book and plan a staycation of my own.

I think I’ll start small and visit a place that isn’t too far from home. How does an afternoon at the zoo sound to you?

Suffragettes and a Really Good Book

This month marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the U.S. I decided to begin my own celebration of the occasion by reading a book set during the early 1900s when women were advocating/fighting for the right to vote.

The book I chose was Impossible Saints: A Novel by Clarissa Harwood. I thought it was going to be a romance set against the English suffragette movement, but it turned out to be so much more. Here’s the opening line:

The day her pupil’s father threw Lilia Brooke’s copy of Homer’s Odyssey across the schoolroom was the day she knew she’d have to leave Ingleford. Given time, she could forgive most offenses, but all bets were off if violence was done to her favorite book.

I felt an immediate connection to Lilia Brooke (I don’t like people who make dog-ears, cracked spines, or torn pages in books, either). Besides being a book lover, Lilia is a hard-working, spirited suffragette, willing to risk her life for voting rights for herself and future generations of women.

By contrast, Paul Harris is an Anglo-Catholic priest who doesn’t want to rock the boat. He prefers a quiet life and reading religious texts to the company of his fellow human beings.

But this book goes well beyond the opposites-attract trope. The author skillfully integrates a healthy amount of information about the early English suffrage movement, without detracting in any way from the intimate story of Lilia and Paul.

In fact, I had a hard time putting this book down, and several scenes still stay with me, days after I finished the last page. And that, I think, is the measure of a really good book.

Impossible Saints: A Novel by Clarissa Harwood is available on Amazon and other print and e-book retailers.

Note: I don’t receive any compensation for recommending this book; I just like to share good books I find with others.

Happy Birthday, Pride and Prejudice (1940)!

I saw my first adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on television in the 1960s, one afternoon at home with my sisters while my parents were at work. It was the 1940 black-and-white movie starring Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. Because I hadn’t yet read Jane Austen’s masterpiece at the time, I viewed the movie as just another enjoyable Hollywood comedy.

Produced by MGM studios, the movie was released on July 26, 1940 to rave reviews. Newspaper and magazine columnists described the movie as “brilliant,” charming,” and “hilarious.”

All those descriptors suited MGM, since the studio made a deliberate decision to mine the novel for as many comedic aspects as possible, and their advertisements reflected that intention. Here’s one of their newspaper ads, which opens with the words, “Bachelors Beware!”

The ad below promised the movie would take viewers on “The Merriest Man-Hunt”:

And this movie poster proclaims the story takes place during a time “when pretty girls t-e-a-s-e-d men into marriage.”

Movie-goers ate it all up with a spoon and a smile. Book stores and movie theaters gave away copies of the novel in promotional campaigns.

Part of an ad in The Semi-Weekly Spokesman Review (Spokane, Washington) on Sunday, October 13, 1940.

One newspaper encouraged readers to submit stories (in 100 words or less) about how “pride or prejudice cost you a girl friend, boy friend, a friend or a job.” The prize: a copy of Pride and Prejudice autographed by the film’s star, Greer Garson.

From The Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, Tuesday, August 27, 1940.

A couple years after I first saw the movie on television I read the novel and found the film was only somewhat faithful to the original. Here’s an early scene in the movie where Darcy (second from left) insults Elizabeth Bennet (second from right) at the Meryton assembly:

Elizabeth overhears Darcy’s insults at the Meryton assembly. Left to right: Charles Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Lucas.

But while the scene appears visually faithful to the book, the dialog was altered for the movie. Jane Austen wrote Darcy’s insult in this way:

She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.

But in the movie, Darcy’s insult was altered so it was directed toward the assembly in general, not toward Elizabeth in particular:

Yes, she looks tolerable enough, but I am in no humor tonight to give consequence to the middle classes at play.

In another scene that rings true, Jane and Elizabeth tend Mrs. Bennet’s poor nerves while their father looks on:

MGM’s commitment to going for the big laughs is what probably led to several scenes that never appeared in the book, like the ridiculously improbable carriage race in the beginning of the movie. It also led to scenes like this one, where Mr. Collins and Mary Bennet show off their musical talents (or lack thereof):

The studio also added an archery scene that never appeared in Austen’s novel, although it is effective in conveying Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s personalities:

For me, the most jarring aspect of the movie is the costumes, which were created by famed Hollywood designer, Adrian.

An example of the over-the-top costumes worn by the characters of Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet in the film.

Adrian did his research and was aware of the Grecian-inspired style of clothing in vogue during the time period in which Pride and Prejudice takes place; but for this film he decided to follow his own taste, instead. An article in the May 19, 1940 issue of The Detroit Free Press explains why:

Excerpt from an article in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday, May 19, 1940.

Despite its outlandish costumes and emphasis on physical comedy, this movie holds a special place in my heart because it was my very first introduction to Pride and Prejudice. And despite the fact that the majority of the film strays far from canon, I like it, and I enjoyed watching it again this week.

So, happy birthday Pride and Prejudice (1940)! Your old-fashioned 1940s charm and desire to please everyone still holds up 80 years later.

Note: The movie posters and still movie photos in this post can be found at IMDB.com. Click here to see more.