Jane Austen at Home by Stephen Siddall produced by Jeremy Musson - Lyme Park.

    On the 18th of July, I was lucky enough to find myself sitting in the Chapel at Lyme Park, listening to a recital of extracts from Jane Austen's works. The fact that the performance was 200 years to the day after her death on July 18th 1817, made it all the more special. It was billed as a celebration of the variety of her writing and extracts were taken from her letters, juvenilia, poetry and novels. 

    Performed by Emerald O'Hanrahan, better known for her part of Emma Grundy, in the BBC radio docu-drama The Archers, this was a one woman show, performed with energy and enthusiasm. There were extracts from most of Jane's novels- the big six as I think of them and also some lesser known writings: Sanditon, The Adventures of Mr Harley. I would have loved to have heard from Lady Susan but you can't have everything.

    My favourite readings, apart from Mr Bennett's genius account of his meeting with Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice were the extracts from Jane's History of England, written in 1790. Jane was sixteen when she wrote this and it parodied the type of books she would have been given as a school girl. Jane had Oliver Goldsmith's History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II (1771) firmly in her sights and her irony and wit was there to see from an early age. Jane styled her History:  by a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian, adding N.B. There will be very few dates in this History. 


    Lyme Park is remembered as one of the settings for Pemberley used by the BBC when filming the peerless adaptation of Pride and Prejudice  in 1995. It was a scorching hot day and I loved wandering out into the grounds to see the now famous lake from where Mr Darcy emerged and the beautiful steps he ran down after meeting Elizabeth . It didn't actually happen like that in the book but I rather think Jane would have looked on that adjusted scene with a scandalised but highly amused eye. 

Finally, I'd like to end with one of my favourite lines from Pride and Prejudice, spoken by Mr Bennet and summing up for me Jane Austen's brilliant wit which she could turn on herself and even her readers:

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jane_austen.html
  For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn? 
 Chapter 57
For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jane_austen.h
   

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