Monday, May 25, 2015

ELM (part 5) - Jane Austen and Blackadder Austen Library ...

Welcome to another post on the thread:  ELM -  English, Literature, and Musings ....

Comedy can be a great teacher.

And the comedy Blackadder gave me an introduction to English history and literature as well as helping me recall what I had learned in school.  This BBC series and its specials followed the Blackadder line as it slithered through time from the Middle Ages to World War One.

Let's look at one these periods:

The Times of King George III

The reign of King George III was an interesting time in ...


The American colonies declared their independence in 1776; William Pitt, the younger, and William Wilberforce worked to abolish slavery in the British Empire, Napoleon met the Duke of Wellington in battle as well as his Waterloo.


The rise of the London coffee houses fostered creativity of such poets and writers - like Samuel Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Shelly. Dr. Samuel Johnson published his comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language.

And during the reign of King George III was ...

The Regency Period

In 1811, Parliament appointed the Prince of Wales, George Augustus Frederick, as Prince Regent to his father King George III.  (George III is remembered in children's history books as the mad king who lost America.)

But what does this have to do with Jane Austen?  She comes in at season 3 during the Regency period in the BBC comedy ....

Blackadder the Third 

An impoverished ex-aristocrat, Mr. Edmund Blackadder becomes the butler and personal servant to the Prince Regent, son of mad King George III. In this scene from Ink and Incapability, Dr. Samuel Johnson presents his English dictionary to the Prince Regent, while the butler makes sport of the pompous doctor.

Why is Prince George's butler so snarky to Dr. Johnson? If you are a writer, you may know the sting of being rejected, or worse totally ignored by a publisher.  So does Mr. Edmund Blackadder

Commenting to his dogsbody Baldrick, Mr. Blackadder laments about his novel, which he had sent to Dr. Samuel Johnson:

"Edmund: A Butler's Tale" by Gertrude Perkins.
A huge rollercoaster of a novel crammed with sizzling gypsies"

Blackadder :

He might at least have written back, but no, nothing, not even a 
"Dear Gertrude Perkins, 
 Thank you for your book.
Get stuffed.
Samuel Johnson."


Gertrude Perkins? 


Yes, I gave myself a female pseudonym.
Everybody's doing it these days: Mrs Radcliffe, Jane Austen 


Jane Austen's a man?


Of course.
A huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush.

[reference: Blackadder s03e02 Episode Script | SS ]

Which brings us to the subject that during this period spawned ...

Women Authors of Classic Literature

The Regency period was a time when many women writers broke on the scene. Here are a few that are classics today:

*  The Bonte sisters - Charlotte, Emily, and Anne

     * Emily's Wuthering Heights (1847)
     * Charlotte's Jane Eyre (1847)
     * Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)

* Elizabeth Barrett - also known as Elizabeth Barrett Browning

   * author of Poems (1844)

* Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly - and wife of poet Percy Shelley.
    * author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818)

* The works of Jane Austen (1811 - 1818)

  *  Northanger Abbey (1818)
  *  Sense and Sensibility (1811)
  *  Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  *  Mansfield Park (1814)
  *  Emma (1815)
  *  Persuasion (1818)

Back to Blackadder the Third, ...

The opening theme ends with the butler finding a Romance Regency paperback (it's an anachronism) with a Jane Austen-like episode title, such as seen here:

All the episode titles for season 3 are Jane Austen-esque, shades of Sense and Sensibilities:

* Dish and Dishonesty
* Ink and Incapablity
* Nob and Nobility
* Sense and Senility
* Amy and Amiability
* Duel and Duality

There is a good reason for this.

The real Prince George was a fan of Jane Austen and suggested she dedicate a book to him.  And when the son of King George III (and future King George IV) makes a suggestion, you had better do it.  And she did.  So Jane Austen dedicated Emma to the Prince Regent, with these words:

"To His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, this work is, by His Royal Highness's permission, most respectfully dedicated to His Royal Highness by His dutiful and obedient humble servant, the Author."

[reference: Regency Period of Jane Austen]

Comedy can be educational after all.

And for the last word   ...

“What a shame, for I dearly love to laugh.” 

― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice



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