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Imagine Classic Literary Characters living in the Modern World. Read Jane Eyre Gets Real, a Novel by Annabelle Troy, available on Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Eyre-Gets-Real-Annabelle-ebook/dp/B00FAS3I7O

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Mrs. Brown, With Mangoes

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Jane Eyre, living now in NYC courtesy of the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, was surprised recently when she saw a coming attraction for Victoria and Abdul. The movie, starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, has just opened in New York. It tells the true story of the aging queen and how she makes an Indian butler her Muslim adviser. Directed by Stephen Frears, of Philomena fame, the film has a stellar cast and lavish production values. Normally it would be right up Jane’s alley–except it all seems to be suspiciously like the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown. 

Mrs. Brown also starred Judi Dench as Queen Victoria who, extremely saddened by the death of Prince Albert, emerges from depression with the help of her Scottish servant (played by Billy Connolly). Both films revolve around the premise of a melancholy old queen, draped in black and out of touch, who is brought back to life with the aid of a “foreign” man of lowly social stature. As reward, said man is elevated to high rank and given the queen’s royal devotion. In Mrs. Brown, Billy the gillie serves Victoria whisky, encourages her to ride out in rough temperatures and to interact with peasants. In Victoria and Abdul, Abdul endeavors to present the Queen with a perfect mango: symbol of her Eastern kingdoms, too far away for her to visit yet glowing with refracted exoticism. Same difference.

Victoria and Abdul, Jane imagines, is a treat as predictable and delicious as Victoria sponge cake. She’s sure it will be easy to watch, and will offer what American audiences seem to crave: the ability to savor the beauty of empire while remaining smug in their liberal beliefs. After all, even the prim and proper queen comes to love her Indian servant, “Munshi”, valuing him over prime minister Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) and her other po-faced courtiers. Meaning, in theory, that the film is supporting the virtues of the “humble.” In fact, apart from being a showcase for Dench’s amazing talent, Jane fears it’s just another opportunity to feature gleaming silks in jeweled colors, plummy accents, and endless green lawns beneath a watery English sun. Nothing wrong with that; just be honest about what exactly Victoria and Abdul is celebrating.

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When Hope Despairs, Turn to Fiction

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If you are feeling in despair, as the Bronte sisters–and brother Branwell–almost always were, reading is a good way out. Emily Bronte can attest to the power of the imagination, and so she did, in the poem at the end of this post (reprinted by kind permission of her spirit). If writing poetry on the moors isn’t your thing, read Jane Eyre Gets Real by Annabelle Troy, free on Amazon from Sept 16-Sept 20th. Happy Imagination!

To Imagination by Emily Bronte

When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While then canst speak with such a tone!

So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it, that all around
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?

Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:

But thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death.
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening’s quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!

Mr. Darcy Weathers the Storm

 

With Hurricane Harvey having recently battered Texas and Irma about to hit Florida, Mr. Darcy, who appears in Jane Eyre Gets Real, reflects on storms that he has known. We think of Jane Austen’s arguably most popular creation living a serene life on his estate, Pemberley. For the most part that is true but, like some of Austen’s other characters and like the author herself, Mr. Darcy sometimes visited Lyme Regis. It is a seaside place near Bath, known for wild storms. Darcy was there in 1824 when the Great Gale hit Weymouth then went on to top The Cobb, a sea wall in Lyme, destroying its length by 90 meters–this, after wrecking havoc on the villages of Fleet and Chiswell. Since Jane Austen died in 1817, she was fortunately spared all knowledge of this storm.

That doesn’t mean Jane wasn’t influenced by Lyme. In Persuasion, Austen’s poignant novel of middle-aged love, Louisa Musgrove has an accident on the Cobb. This brings to the fore Captain Wentworth’s still-vivid regard for his erstwhile lover, Anne Elliot as he looks to her to take charge. Lyme Regis is also famous for its place in John Fowles’s spectacular novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Rejected by a dashing officer, penniless and forced to take menial employment, Sarah Woodruff dramatically stalks Lyme Regis, her hood billowing in the wind, her skin stung by salt as her eyes blaze with misery. Mr. Darcy is frightened by women like Sarah, whose spirit is so like a hurricane. He prefers to tame storms, or ignore them, not indulge them. “No drama.” Of course, as one of the most eligible men in literature, he has a choice. Most people, when it comes to love or storms, have none.

The prayers of all the characters in Jane Eyre Gets Real are with the victims of Harvey and Irma.

 

Is There a Cure for Tulip Fever?

This weekend the film Tulip Fever, based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, opens in New York City. The film was supposed to be made over a decade ago, and was to star Keira Knightley and Jude Law; it now features Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz. Set in the 17th century, the plot revolves around the zeal aroused by tulip speculation–hundreds of years ago fortunes could be made (and lost) by investing in the Oriental flower.  So far, the movie has received lukewarm reviews; it seems to be a bit dull and over-plotted. (Given the dour Dutch setting this isn’t surprising; Vermeer just made it look easy!)

Hester Prynne, a character in the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, doesn’t understand the fuss. A survivor of the 1600s, she thought Tulip Fever was a real disease. When she heard it was coming to NYC, she rustled around some old recipe books and wooden boxes, eager to find a cure. In Hester’s time, pre-antibiotics, any fever was potentially fatal. Below is a list of some particularly nasty ailments and their common cures (from the article Disease and Illness in Regency England by I. A. Hilden:

Smallpox- virus causes blister bumps on the skin and in the mouth and throat, accompanied by a fever. If you get this disease and survive, you would not get it again. Believed to have emerged in 10,000 BC. A smallpox rash was found on Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt. It can cause blindness due to ocular scarring. Eighty percent of children who contracted this disease died. It is airborne and easily inhaled or transmitted through bodily fluids. One of the first vaccinations ever created was for smallpox in 1798.

Pleurisy-is an inflammation of the lungs that produces a hacking cough and sharp chest pain. Respiratory infections and pneumonia are the main causes of pleurisy. Milk Weed- helps to relieve breathing difficulties, ease pain, and lessen inflammation. Leeches- applied to rib cage where the pain was located.

Yellow Fever-a tropical disease spread by mosquitos. It usually occurred in seaports and carried flu like symptoms. This disease killed many British soldiers in the West Indies. Severe cases led to kidney and liver failure. Bloodletting, cold baths, and a calomel and James’s powder purge. Often bled 4-5 times in a 30-hour period.

Croup- this name applied to many illnesses at the time, including diphtheria. This disease
occurred with children, leading to hoarseness and coughing. Severe cases led to convulsions and death. Nowadays we say the patient is barking like a seal when they contract this virus. Croup causes inflammation in the upper airways. The disease often begins with signs of the common cold. White Horehound Syrup was used to alleviate the cough and lung trouble. 

Typhoid Fever-brought on by consuming food or water that has been contaminated by human waste either directly or through flies. Could lead to delirium and death if untreated. Often accompanied by a rash that is similar to Typhus. It has four stages with a variety of terrible symptoms. Sanitation and education is the way to prevent it. Bloodletting and Calomel- Calomel is Mercury and it acts as a purgative and kills bacteria. It also does irreversible damage to the patient.

As summer chills into fall, be sure to wrap up warm, and pick up a bouquet of tulips from your local florist. If chicken soup is good for the body, flowers feed the soul.

 

 

Queen Victoria’s Tramp Stamp

 

OK, Queen Victoria getting a tattoo may be a rumor started by Annabelle Troy…BUT, Alice in Wonderland, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, knows that tattooing was all the rage amongst grand ladies in the 1880s. The practice was first popularized in high society when that playboy trend setter the Prince of Wales got a cross tattoo in Jerusalem (Alice is not sure where on the body); his sons copied the cross design on their own flesh. Thus the rage for tattoos was born. After Czar Nicholas II. and Kaiser Wilhelm succumbed, aristocratic women started to get designs from the tattoo machine as well. Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Jennie, had a serpent tattoo encircling her wrist–which she covered in public with bracelets. To have ornate designs inscribed on the skin, which only husbands or lovers would see, was definitely a Victorian lady’s well-guarded secret.

Late in the 19th century “tattooed ladies”,  sometimes inked from head to slipper, became a circus staple. These ladies were definitely NOT aristocrats. Eventually, when the rage for tattooing spread to the lower classes,  along with methods for procuring them on the cheap, “real” ladies began to forego them. If Kate Middleton has one, she’s not telling…though she does have “permanent makeup”–liner etched onto her eyes so that she will always look presentable. Still, it’s no serpent.

 

 

 

 

Some Enchanted Eclipse

An eclipse of the sun deserves a good fairy tale. Read Hansel & Gretel Inside the House of Candy for free Aug. 17-21. You don’t even have to follow a breadcrumb trail through the forest. Simply click on the box below that says Buy On Amazon and the book will appear free on your electronic reading device; it’s as easy as magic! Remember to act before the sun disappears.

Did You Know Bambi Had Kids?

Recently Heidi, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real who originally starred in the children’s classic by Johanna Spyri, found a great book in the New York Public Library. It’s called Bambi’s Children, by the author of the original Bambi novel (which existed before the Disney cartoon), Felix Salten. It tells the story of a grown-up Bambi who hooks up with his cousin Faline–ok, deer have different rules about such things–and they have twins, Geno and Gurri. Geno and Gurri do sound more like Jersey Shore characters than fawns, but, as a family saga about deer–maybe the only one in existence–Bambi’s Children works like a charm.

Facts About Felix Salten:

He was a Jew who escaped Nazi-occupied Austria and sought refuge in Switzerland. His real name was Siegmund Salzmann and he was born on September 6, 1869 (died October 8, 1945). Incidentally, September 6 is also the birthday of author Annabelle Troy.

Bambi’s Children, though originally written in German, was first published in the USA in 1939. The mating scenes, and realistic scenes of animals being hurt or killed, were cut. Salten, who did not wish to be regarded as a children’s author, objected to this. (Bambi, the original, unabridged novel, was intended to be an allegory of a child growing up to become a man.)

Geni and Gurri were modeled after Felix’s own children, Paul and Anna Katharina, minus the antlers and the spotted coats, of course!

Though Bambi’s Children never made it into a cartoon, Walt Disney Productions did publish a comic book version of it in 1943.

For fun: Feeling wiped-out and uncreative after a hot, sticky day? Imagine your favorite classic character as an animal–dog, bird, alligator, lobster, whatever–and reimagine their story that way. Pride and Prejudice with foxes, anyone?

 

 

 

 

Lady Macbeth: Murder Most Clean

Spoiler Alert: the ending is revealed

Emma Bovary was sure she would identify with the heroine of the recently released film, Lady Macbeth, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and which is based on the Russian novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov; if you’ve never heard of him, that’s ok–neither had Emma. Set on the moors in 1865, the heroine Katherine, portrayed by Florence Pugh, marries an older man. Unlike Charles Bovary, Katherine’s husband does not dote on his bride; in fact, he torments her, as does her new father-in-law. They seem to hate women in general, as well as any softness or beauty. Katherine begins an affair with Sebastian, the hunky groomsman, who is seductive if you like the primitive type. When Katherine’s father-in-law begins to suspect the affair, Katherine poisons him–cooly, cleanly and apparently without conscience. She also brings about the demise of her husband, and an innocent little boy as well. Katherine is all for Sebastian being her consort–she appears to love him in a passionate, willful way–until the groomsman cracks and confesses. Katherine adroitly turns the confession to her own advantage, pinning the murders on Sebastian and a shy, oft-abused black maidservant. Her class and luminous face protect Katherine; she is seen at the end of the film, deserted by her household but rich and free. Lonely as she is, we feel her brilliant career–both as a lover and a murderess–have just begun.

Emma did enjoy the film, especially the performance of Florence Pugh, who plays her part with deft perfection. You always want to watch her; she is a panther in a sky-blue crinoline and you can’t wait for her to pounce. The only issue for Emma was that she expected to be enraptured and instead she was perplexed. None of the characters, except the maid, are remotely likable—-and even the maid is much more pitiable than sympathetic. The father-in-law is coarse, the husband probably a psychopath, Sebastian is gross and maybe just plain stupid. As for Katherine, you either hate her for her willful crimes or admire her aplomb. But you don’t exactly root for her. Then again, why should a movie heroine be likable? Katherine–and perhaps Emma as well–might ultimately prefer to be survivors.

 

Global Warming Uncovers A Secret

 

Heidi, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, is thinking about a news story she just read. It’s like a sad fairy tale complete with “Frozen” elements: 75 years ago a humble Swiss couple–the husband a shoemaker, the wife a teacher–went out to milk their cows and never came back. Their seven children were separated, sent to live with different families; growing up apart from each other they remained united in one goal: to find their parents. Last week the bodies of  Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, missing since 1942, were discovered perfectly preserved in an Alpine glacier; DNA testing has confirmed their identities. They were found near the Tsanfleuron ski lift; apparently, the couple had tumbled into a crevasse and were only uncovered as the glacier began to melt. Five years ago another melting glacier revealed the remains of the Ebener brothers, lost since 1926.

Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, the youngest child of Francine and Marceline, says she will wear white to her parents’ funeral. “It represents hope, which I never lost.”  A toddler at the time of their disappearance, she is now 79 years old.

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