11 February 2011

my dear Cassandra...









When I read that Cassandra Austen burned most of the letters she received from her sister Jane, I was distraught - how could Cassandra do such a thing? To destroy the words of one of the English speaking world's greatest prose writers seemed unforgivable.

Then when I watched the BBC telemovie 'Miss Austen Regrets' I saw the intense relationship between the sisters - even though Cassandra is off-screen for most of the drama - and could understand why she might want to destroy those reminders of her sister, who she'd never see again, never receive a letter from again.





The intensity of feeling between Elinor and Marianne Dashwood is, I imagine, based on the closeness between Cassandra and Jane Austen. However similar or different they might be, they meant so much to each other, no other friend or family member could replace that trust and intimacy of spirit.


I'd sort of watched 'Miss Austen Regrets' a year or more ago, but skipped in and out of it while - I can't remember - channel flicking, or Facebooking, or ringing my mum... The main things that struck me that time were how well suited Olivia Williams and Greta Scacchi were to play sisters,










and how much Imogen Poots, the actress who plays their niece Fanny Knight, looks like Our Cassandra - Australian author Cassandra Golds.











This time around I also realised that both Williams and Scacchi had previously been in adaptations of Emma -



Olivia Williams played Jane Fairfax in the 1996 BBC version of Emma






and Greta Scacchi played Miss Taylor/Mrs Weston in Douglas McGrath's film of the same year.




(A film better known as Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma, although I think Paltrow and Toni Collette would've been better cast in each other's roles - not that Collette wasn't great as Harriet Smith, but she would've made a better Emma than Paltrow did).


That film was also the one with beautiful, talented Ewen McGregor looking hideous as the dashing Frank Churchill in a dreadful wig, which was needed cos his hair was still very short from playing Renton in Trainspotting.



















And in a lovely coincidence, Ewan McGregor was later in a film called Cassandra's Dream


These images are of course all copyright the owners - presumably the BBC and the relevant film studios. I mean no infringement of copyright; I am not profiting from the use of these images, and will happily remove them if required to do so by the owners.

6 comments:

Misrule said...

I still think it's unforgivable. I will never forgive Charlotte Bronte for burning Emily's unpublished manuscript/s, although I suspect that was the result if a surfeit of a different kind of emotion...

greenspace said...

yes, it is tragic, in both cases - though I definitely have more sympathy for Cassandra's motivation than Charlotte's

Sheep Rustler said...

Hello you, you're Greenspace!! I can understand the MS burning, though it pains me as a historian and a trained librarian/archivist and a general lover of all of these ladies. But the emotional drive must have been so strong for them...

greenspace said...

yes, I'm me :-) maybe I shall change to a recognisable pic of me, rather than the plate of toast.

any time people burn or chuck letters it's distressing from point of view of social history & genealogy, let alone the literary value of those particular letters/manuscripts...

but yes, their feelings ran high, and they weren't thinking about future readers

Heather Jean said...

I think it's one of the things we could never know. What if in fact, it turns out that she was jealous of her sister and actually hated her!

By the way, I really don't like that Gwyneth Paltrow Emma at all, Ewan McGregor is awful in it, still you've done a good job of the photoshots here!

Miss Eagle said...

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Brigid