Monday, 30 January 2012

The worst of Bath

Jane Austen Persuasion book cover
I'm on to Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last novel though only the second I’ve read. Of them all, this story has always been my favourite, being more introspective and darker than the rest. I remember two adaptations; a recent ITV production with Sally Hawkins and an older BBC effort with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. It is - again - incredibly romantic; I can see why Austen has such a following. It’s bitingly funny too:
The worst of Bath was the number of plain women. He did not mean to say that there were no pretty women, but the number of plain was out of all proportion ... there certainly were a dreadful multitude of ugly women in Bath.
And sometimes, just biting:
He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him ‘poor Richard,’ been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.
Ouch, she’s hardly sentimental! One mild complaint, more of a thought, and not of the book; Anne is described as plain yet Sally Hawkins is anything but. To digress a little, neither is Ruth Wilson in Jane Eyre, and Toby Stephens was a little too good looking for Rochester. They’re all supposed to be, if not plain, certainly not striking. It’s a familiar failure; with respect to physical attractiveness, the source is often ignored - has it always been this way? Have we so little faith in character, or is it that producers - perhaps rightly - have so little faith in us?


  1. Technically, of course, Sanditon was the last. But I have never bothered to read it as you don't get to find out who dunnit.