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.