Why I am Thankful for Period Piece Adaptations, Example Four: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Here we are the final installment of November's Why I am Thankful for Period Piece Adaptations. I shared with you the romantic nature of floating cotton in North & South (2004). You now know the bredth of geeky actors in Bleak House (2005). Then we swooned a bit over Rufus Sewell as Will Ladislaw in Middlemarch (1994). This final installment gives you a dose of romance, a heap of drama, an extensively impressive cast, and a dash of humor here and there, but the question remains - why is the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice deemed superior? A question I will definitely try and answer, but first we must address the source material.

First edition of Pride and Prejudice by T. Egerton, Whitehall in January 1813. 

First edition of Pride and Prejudice by T. Egerton, Whitehall in January 1813. 

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813 by T. Egerton, Whitehall in a set of three volumes (notice not through a magazine in serial format). It is considered a "novel of manners" and set in the regency era. The novel's opening lines are well-known: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The Bennet family has five daughters (Janes, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia) and no sons, therefore, the entire estate will be given away to the closet male relation (Mr. Collins) upon the death of Mr. Bennet. Both of these elements translate to a very stressed Mrs. Bennet trying to not only marry her daughters off, but marry them off in such a way that the family's financial future may be secure. 

Mrs. Bennet hopes her eldest daughter Jane will marry the new guy in town, Mr. Bingley ($$). She dabbles with the idea of one of her daughters marrying his friend Mr. Darcy, but... well. Mr. Darcy does not start off on the best foot and finds himself the target of Mrs Bennet's verbal stings. Mr. Collins, the odd, awkward clergy relation, finds himself an ideal suitor because he is to inherit Longbourn (residence of the Bennets). Then there is an entire regiment filled with suitable officers Mrs. Bennet allows to fraternize with her daughters. Whereas, Mr. Bennet just wants his daughters to act like they have some sense. 

The Bennet sisters in P&P (1995): Lydia, Jane, Mary, Kitty, Elizabeth.

The Bennet sisters in P&P (1995): Lydia, Jane, Mary, Kitty, Elizabeth.

The Bennet Girls

Jane Bennet, the eldest Bennet sister is not only considered the most beautiful of the Bennet daughters, but the entire neighborhood. I believe no person in history or fictional character matches her sweet disposition. She truly tries to see the good in everyone. She falls in love with Mr. Bingley, but her reserved nature and family's situation completes matters.   

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennet, the second daughter, closet sister to Jane, and heroine of Pride and Prejudice, is her father's favorite, considered to have a sharp wit and the most intelligent of the Bennet girls. She finds herself attractive to Mr. Darcy, but his harsh comment: "She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men" sets the tone for her judgement and prejudice against him. She refuses to take part in her mother's matchmaking with Mr. Collins, worries about her best friend Charlotte Lucas' decisions, finds herself believing George Wickham's (officer in the regiment) negative stories about Mr. Darcy because of her previous verbal injury, and tries to convince her father to tame her wild sisters Kitty and Lydia. A character I love and adore, but feel like it would be a tad exhausting to actually be her. 

Mary Bennet, oh poor Mary, considered plain, not pretty at all. She even gets the least amount of discussion of all the Bennet sisters in the novel. She focuses her attentions on music and tries to display her accomplishments at every opportunity - however sometimes people would rather not hear Mary play. She would have been an ideal match for Mr. Collins, but he first picked Elizabeth followed by Charlotte Lucas. 

Lydia (left) and Kitty (right)

Lydia (left) and Kitty (right)

Catherine "Kitty" Bennet is the fourth daughter, but for some reasons choose to follow after her youngest sister, Lydia. They are each other's confidant and catalyst for trouble-making. She is officer-crazy and envious of Lydia being a favorite. In the end her connection to her youngest sister means she feels a bit of the backlash of Lydia's actions with Wickham. However, we can all agree. This is for her own good. 

Lydia Bennet is the youngest Bennet sister and her mother's favorite. She is only 15 at the start of the story - yet all the officers flock to her (creepy!). She is quite annoying with her open flirtating, boisterious nature, frivolity, and lack of propriety and moral conduct. Based on her relationship with Kitty, one can see she spearheads their militia-stalking for attractive officers. She inevitably makes poor decisions concerning the lying and scheming George Wickham. Her mess is cleaned up by others, thus, she never really learns her lesson. 

The Suitors

Mr. Bingley , we can safely say kicks off the whole story of Pride and Prejudice. He rents Netherfield Park, a mansion in the area and brings his sisters (both very snooty, one of which Caroline clearly has her eyes set on Mr. Darcy and plays games accordingly) and Mr. Darcy to stay at his new digs. Now, if he had never let Netherfield, Bingley himself would potentitally never had met Jane, nor Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy. Therefore, we owe a great deal to this fictional character's housing tastes. Bingley is a good-natured man, with pleasing manners, who like Jane, also tries to see the best in people. A person's situation does not initially determine if he likes them or not. The one problem about Bingley is how easily he lets his friends and family persuade him - such as when Darcy tries to convince him that Jane Bennet is not the right choice for him. 

Mr. Collins is a clergyman and happens to not only to be Mr Bennet's cousin, but heir to the Bennet estate, Longbourn. He is a ridiculous man and is actually described as "not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society." Mr Collins feels elevated by his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (also Darcy's aunt) and praises her wealth at every opportunity. He completely lacks good sense or common sense for that matter and when his proposal is slighted by Elizabeth, he immediately turns his attetion on her best friend, Charlotte Lucas. 

PrideWickham.jpg

Mr. Wickham the childhood friend of Mr. Darcy (Wickham's father was Mr. Darcy's father's steward) turned officer in the regiment. It could have been that simple if Mr. Wickham did not possess the need to appear better than Darcy. He is happy to tell anyone that will listen about the wrongs done to him by Mr. Darcy. These stories are a web of lies that take forever to reach Mr. Darcy's ears (they definitely move in different circles). It turns out Wickham is manipulative and schemes to get what he wants, which is basically sex and money. He also seems to have a thing for young girls - first Mr. Darcy's sister, Georgianna, then Elizaeth's sister Lydia. Good thing he never went on the path of the church - could you imagine him as your spiritual leader?

Mr. Darcy the weathly, desirable gentleman (though sometimes called proud and disagreeable) that owns the beautiful Pemberley estate in Debyshire. He insults Elizabeth before he ever gets to know her - but as he gets to know her, his feelings change. He finds her eyes to be fine, he loves her determination, how she challenges him. He has to get over all the prejudices to propose and he lets her know it. Eliabeth is injured again on this point - but honestly, Lizzie - have you met your mother, have you seen how your younger sisters act? It is a no-brainer that Elizabeth is a catch, but with marriage comes family and hers can try one's patience. It turns out, Mr. Darcy is a good man. He is guarded, and rightly so (his dealings with Wickham ring a bell). He shows good sense for not purusing Caroline Bingley, who is clearly in love with him. He also has a bromance with Bingley - one of the nicest guys around. He made some verbal mistakes and even admits he should have not kept Bingley from Jane when she was in London. He even apologizes. And once all the history is out in the open - that's when we start to see it. Darcy wants to be the best version of himself for Elizabeth. He will go out of his way to ensure she is not cast aside by others actions. We all love a bad boy who can change - and a boy with a bad attitude turned hero, that is something to be commended. Add that to the commanding figure, handsome looks, and 10,000£ a year and that's one swoon-worthy package. 


There are so many other character to dive into, but let me suggest you read the book. And let me highly suggest skipping movie versions and diving into this miniseries masterpiece. In 1995, the BBC threw down the gauntlet for exceptional period piece adaptation making with the one and only Pride and Prejudice. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth wow in the leads roles, plus did I mention it was written by Andrew Davies (you will remember me geeking out about him the last few weeks. King of adpating classic novels!) The 1995 adaptation is simply one of the most faithful ones produced, but as always its little elements keep us coming back. I hope you have enjoyed this post and the previous in the series.

1. Regency Eye-rolling

2. Regimentals are nice, but cravats, green jackets, stripped waist-coats and oooh look at those high-waisted pants are so much better. Case in point: Mr. Darcy. 

"No, the green one." - Mr. Darcy carefully picks out what to wear when seeing Elizabeth. 

"No, the green one." - Mr. Darcy carefully picks out what to wear when seeing Elizabeth. 

 

3. Women's fashion equally as impressive. Pretty, pretty dresses, cropped jackets, and beautiful hats for one and all! And for your added pleasure, I have included the ridiculous dress of Bingley's sisters (low right hand corner). 

 

3. THAT lake scene.

 

4. THAT bath scene. 

 

5. Elizabeth refuses two marriage proposals before accepting a third. Why?! As she states "I am determined that only the deepest love will induce me into matrimony."

 

 6. British Comedies Represented: Lucy Davis (The Office, UK) as Maria Lucas, Alice Steadman (Gavin & Stacy) as Mrs. Bennet, Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous) as Lydia Bennet.

7. Longbourn to Pemberly - all desirable homes, which apparently you could tour (just like historic homes today) if the family was away.

8. We like a world where men drink tea like this and write letters to address a matter (the only acceptable written form of courting - text messages and social media posts are not acceptable forms for courting). 

 

9. We like a heroine who speaks her mind / We love characters that challenge each other.

 

10. Again, kisess are swoonable but those eyes! THOSE FINE EYES (filled to the brim with love and admiration) - they give me great pleasure.