Daily Archives: Tuesday 12 February 2008

Potatoes and prejudice

A friend here who reads my blog has listened to my laments about red and white, and only red and white, potatoes in this post, and my delight in Jane Austen, in this post and in the comments on it. I came home today and found four bags of potatoes and a Jane Austen text on my doorstop.

I recognise none of the potato varieties – Nicolas, Bintjes, King Edwards and Dutch Creme, but they all look promising, far more so than the dull red and white spuds. I will turn to my trusty Stephanie Alexander Cook’s Companion for help, and if that fails, teh interweb, of course.

The Jane Austen text is, shall we say, interesting. The conceit is that Miss Austen excised certain scenes from her books. The manuscripts were hidden by Jane’s sister Cassandra, but they came to light in the early 21st century. So now, the lost sex scenes of Jane Austen are at last available for us to read.

Do you really want to know what “Emma Alone” gets up to? And just why was it that Elizabeth and Darcy had to talk so determinedly of Matlock and Dovedale while the Gardiners approached? As for exactly why Anne Elliot’s original engagement with Wentworth was broken – just too scandalous.

For your, ah, reading delight, a small extract from the unexcised version of Mansfield Park. It does rather explain why there was so much fuss over what was just a play.

********************
********************

The business of finding a play that would suit everybody proved to be no trifle…

“I must tell you,” Edward said, “that I find The Curious Cousins exceedingly unfit for private representation.”

“We see things very differently,” cried Maria. “I am perfectly acquainted with the play, I assure you. It will be performed after Mother and our Aunt and the servants have gone to bed; and with a very few omissions, and so forth, which will be made, of course, I can see nothing objectionable in it.”

“I assume you are speaking of the pic-nic scene, as one you intend to omit.”

“The pic-nic scene!” cried Maria. “To the contrary, the pic-nic scene is essential, and charming besides; without it, the viewer should never learn of the cousins’ great delight in nature.”

But Fanny still hung back. She could not endure the idea of it. After much entreaty she had agreed, with sinking heard, to take the role of Yvonne, the French ladies’ maid; and now stood trembling and miserable in the costume that had been prepared for her. She detested the costume. Mary Crawford, who claimed to know of such things, insisted it was delightfully true to the modern French fashion, and becoming to Fanny besides; but Fanny could not help but think that – true to the French fashion indeed! – it was both painfully constricting and altogether shameless at once; and, her arm growing weary under the weight of the pic-nic basket she was to carry in the scene, she anticipated her entrance with dread.

She was to enter upon the conclusion of a scene between Edmund and Miss Crawford – or rather, ‘Bernard’ and ‘Mimsy.’ Edmund, whose fulminations against the performance had been even more vociferous then her own, was now, she was surprized to see, acquitting himself admirably in the role.

As ‘Bernard’ (described only as ‘A Well-Formed Fellow’ by the play text)’, Edmund wore a velvet cloak; a three-cornered hat in the continental style; and a pair of high, sturdy hunting boots borrowed from Tom. Fanny has been surprized and dismayed that Edmund did not insist on wearing more, as was his usual habit. It seemed that, having abandoned his scruples in regard to the pay itself, he was now willing to abandon everything else, including his trousers. She feared that his capitulation had something to do with his partner in the scene, Mary Crawford, who now stood before him dressed only in the three quarters of a yard of green baize which had been left over from the curtain.

And, Fanny knew, before long even that modest covering would be gone, for the scene called for ‘Mimsy’ to lay it on the ground upon learning that ‘Yvonne’ had forgotten the pic-nic cloth. For this error ‘Yvonne’ was to be, in the words of the script, ‘punished most delightfully.’

Soon the baize was on the ‘ground’; soon ‘Bernard’s’ cloak and hat were cast away; now the removable panel built into the front of Fanny’s uniform had been ‘torn off’ in a ‘rage’ by ‘Mimsy,’ thus causing the uniform to drop to the floor; and there Fanny stood, mute, trembling, exposed in only her underclothes, before Edmund, the Cousin whose modesty and rectitude had long been a example to her, but who had now, it seemed, risen most unexpectedly to the peculiar occasion; and Miss Crawford, the friend for whose affections she had often been grateful, but whose motives, especially with regard to Edmund, Fanny had never been able to regard without some suspicion and occasionally dismay. All, except Fanny, were now entirely naked. All knew their parts, knew what was to follow in the complicated scene; knew what gestures, what exclamations, what complex and intricate choreography was to come. All knew they must begin.

They did begin – and being too much engaged in their own noise, to be struck by unusual noise in the other part of the house, had proceeded some way when the door of the room was thrown open, and Julia appearing in it, with a face all aghast, exclaimed, ‘My father is come! He is in the hall at the moment!”

********************
********************

From Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, by Arielle Eckstut

BTW, Belinda? This post is for you! (Though I am sure one or two other of my readers might enjoy it too.)