March 26, 2012

Miss Elizabeth Bennet

As someone who used to cope with her crushed-sardine morning commute on the T by looking over the shoulders of the people who got on early enough to get seats, to see what they were reading {and getting some great recommendations that way), being able to look into a person's bag of 'Library Loot' every week is even better.  Claire's blog, The Captive Reader, is one of my favorites, not only for that pleasure, but also because of her pictures of book-filled rooms and her love of Angela Thirkell. {Thanks, Claire!}

{I borrowed this cover image from Claire, too, because it's so lovely
and I couldn't find one anywhere else. I hope she doesn't mind.}
That's how I found out that A.A. Milne had written a play based on Pride and Prejudice.  I probably would have looked for it anyway,just because of that, but I was surprised and delighted by his novel Chloe Marr last year, not knowing, in my ignorance, that he had written more than children's books. {And, though I shouldn't be anymore, I'm always surprised and delighted by what I can find in our excellent library system. The only things not in their stacks are Persephones and other new books from the UK blogs I read. Thanks, Minuteman! I really don't know where I would be without you.}

If you can find this (it was published in 1936), it's a fun way to re-visit P&P.  It's almost a way to re-read it, as it does follow the novel very closely, and incorporates a  lot of the original dialogue. I loved the role he created for Mr. Bennet {one of my favorite characters}, and I just realized that Mary (another of my favorites) is in the first scene and then disappears {budget constraints}. Some things that happen offstage in the book are brought onstage {a love scene between Jane and Bingley, and Darcy confronting Wickham and Lydia, a scene that makes Wickham's intentions very clear} and others go the other way .  There's a very interesting preface, too, where Milne talks about his approach to dramatizing such a well-known work. One of his guiding principles was that the characters he created needed to be true to themselves -- not just to the book -- and that might explain some of his messing around.  He also explains why the play was never produced onstage {competition}.

Reading this was a wonderful little intermission.  Now, I have to get back to Middlemarch, and Edith, and my own new stack of library books...


JoAnn said...

This sounds wonderful, but may be difficult to locate. Nothing in my library system or on amazon, but I'll still keep an eye out.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

First of all, thank you for that lovely mention at the beginning of your post. It is always wonderfully gratifying when people go into specifics about what they enjoy about the blog - and I love that Angela Thirkell is one of your reasons!

I am, of course, so happy that you enjoyed this too. I totally missed Mary being absent after the first scene but I think I was too delighted by everything else going on to pay her much notice! I loved Milne's added scenes, particularly the one between Jane and Bingley, and found the preface fascinating. But it is cruel of us to taunt other bloggers with mentions of this when it is so hard to obtain if your library doesn't happen to have a copy. Aren't we lucky though!

The more I read of Milne, the more delighted I am by him. I've read 5 of his plays, one of his novels, and his fantastic autobiography already this year and I'm looking forward to reading more!