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Monthly Archives: May 2007

I came across an essay with that title recently in an old copy of Persuasions, the publication of JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America), and it made for some fascinating reading. One of the major themes of Austen’s books is money–who has it, who doesn’t, what size house can they afford, and can they marry, should they marry, must they marry?

Naturally I now can’t find that issue and the article,* but fortunately I took notes, and I also came across this wonderfully useful site, where you can translate the value of the pound from the thirteenth century into modern (2006 British pounds) currency, based on the retail price index. If you double that figure, you get, more or less, today’s $ value. As a rough guide, for calculating yearly incomes, for instance, multiply by one hundred.

Quick currency lesson/refresher: 12 pennies (d for denarius) make a shilling; 20 shillings (sh or s) make a pound (can’t find the symbol on blogger, but it’s a curly L for libra). Then there are guineas, which are a pound and a shilling, and used for some items–wages, horses, carriages, gambling debts–mainly luxury items. Sometime I’d like to research what was priced in guineas and what wasn’t. Anyone know? These are both sides of a golden guinea from the first decade of the nineteenth century.

The article took some prices from Jane Austen’s letters of 1810 and I translated these into the modern equivalent (rounding them up to the nearest 50c). Jane liked silk stockings which cost her 12s a pair or about $65–what you’d probably pay now for silk stockings by Prada (yes, it was an excuse to go onto ebay). She had a cloak made for 10s, about $54, which seems quite cheap for tailor-made clothes. Meat was 8d a pound ($3.50), butter a shilling a pound ($5), cheese 9 1/2d a pound ($4)–fairly close to our prices. But fresh salmon was a whopping 2s 9d a pound for a whole fish, $14–presumably because of the expense of shipping it (anyone know which rivers were the salmon rivers then? I’m guessing the Avon–I think the Thames, coming back now as a salmon river, was too polluted). A copy of Pride & Prejudice cost 18s–$94! She paid 30 guineas for the piano at Chawton, or $3,282–about what you’d pay now for a superior upright.

The most telling figures I found, however, were for the price of a quartern, the four pound loaf, which cost 11 3/4 d (eleven and three farthings) in the period 1800-1804, but by 1810 the price had risen to 2s 6d (half-a-crown), or from $6 to $13. This was the staple food of most common people and laborers made probably only a few shillings a day–life was very hard at the bottom of the social scale.

And now it’s question time. What’s your favorite money-related scene in something you’ve read or written?

Feldman, James, “How Wealthy Is Mr. Darcy–
Really?” Persuasions, 1990, Vol. 12.

Sign up for the Riskies newsletter at and learn how to spin straw into golden guineas. Or not. But put NEWSLETTER in the subject line.

I recently found out that a Dutch translation of LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE is being released!

It’s my first international sale. I’m delighted about the nice little sum I got from the foreign rights sale, which will help keep me in paper and print cartridges as I work on finishing mess-in-progress. But mostly I just think it’s very cool.

I googled around and found the cover and blurb at You have to scroll down about halfway to find it.

Though I wish it were larger I think I like the cover–better than most on the site which lean heavily (and I mean heavily!) toward man-titty. The dress looks a bit off but Livvy and Jeremy look right.

I used an online translator to figure out the title. “Reputatie op het spel” translates literally to “Reputation on the game” which I think probably means something like “Reputation on the Line” or “Reputation at Stake”. Either way it sounds right for the book, which I’ve heard isn’t always the case with translations.

Now for the part that drove me a bit crazy. In my googling I also ran across a Dutch message board where (I think) readers were discussing the book. I felt the temptation to run their comments through the translator but then decided I’d better not blow writing time to discover they hated the thing. Oh well, there were lots of emoticons of all sorts in one of the posts so at least the book sparked a reaction.

So anyway, friends, what do you think of the packaging? Which cover do you like better?

And do you think I should go figure out what those Dutch readers think of my book or just get back to my mess-in-progress? OK, I think I know the answer to that one!

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice for Best Regency Romance of 2005

Jane Austen Alert!

Masterpiece Theatre in the United States just announced that, beginning January 2008, they will present “The Complete Jane Austen.”

This will include new adaptations of Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, plus the popular Andrew Davies-scripted adaptations of Emma (the one starring Kate Beckinsale) and Pride and Prejudice (the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version.)

Two of the new adaptations will also be written by Andrew Davies (the new ITV Northanger Abbey and the new BBC Sense and Sensibility.)

I admit I was sadly disappointed by the 1986 “Peter Firth As A Creepy Tilney” version of Northanger Abbey, so I’m really hoping Davies and director Jon Jones give us a great interpretation of one of my favorite Austen novels.

This one stars lovely young Felicity Jones as Catherine (pictured here, on the cover of the British DVD release!)

By the way, I love Austen movie synchronicity — that is, finding that actors in one Austen (or Regency-interest) movie appear in another — and so I will point out that this Mrs. Allen is played by Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Fanny in the 1983 Mansfield Park, and also appeared in the recent Amazing Grace.

My biggest worry with Northanger Abbey is that it was filmed entirely in Ireland. We’ve rolled our eyes at that before at Risky Regencies, but I think it’s worth doing again..

Northanger Abbey? Not at all filmed at Bath? The best Bath novel in the world, with the Pump Room and the Lower Rooms and the Upper Rooms and Milsom Street and Pulteney Street and everything else? The novel is practically a guide-book, or at least a high-brow advertisement, for Bath — so how can they make it without Bath?.

Okay, enough eye-rolling. Ironically enough, the only part of the earlier Northanger Abbey adaptation that I thoroughly liked was the gorgeous Bath backdrops.

Next up, perhaps the adaptation that has me worried most of all: Mansfield Park.

So: why does this have me worried, you ask? To begin with, look at the photo (courtesy of another UK DVD release.)

What is she wearing?

And why is her hair like that?

This actress, for those of you who haven’t already shouted “I know WHO she is!” (sorry, bad joke) is Billie Piper, famous for being the female sidekick of Dr. Who in the last few seasons. And her hair in Dr. Who is surprisingly similar to her hair here…

My second worry: the entire Mansfield Park is all of two hours long, including commercials.

(Plus, I confess I peeked at bits that were uploaded to YouTube, and I’m not terribly impressed.)

But I should give it the benefit of the doubt…right?

Here are some more pics.

They worry me too.

Mostly, it’s the hair.

And Fanny’s constant sulky/sexy expression.

Interestingly enough, the script for this adaptation was written by Maggie Wadey, who wrote the 1986 Northanger Abbey (the one you may have already noticed I don’t much care for. Then again, Peter Firth would not have been her fault.)

My piece of Austen/Regency (okay, not Regency, but Georgian, anyway) synchronicity here: Tom is played by James D’Arcy, who played Blifil in the lovely 1997 Tom Jones.

The third ITV Austen movie will be Persuasion.

Now you may be thinking just what I am: how could anyone improve on the sublime 1995 Roger Michell/Nick Dear version, which starred Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds?

It was short, but near perfection. And it had an amazing supporting cast: Simon Russell Beale, Fiona Shaw, Sophia Thompson, Sam West — and such camerawork, gorgeous Bath backdrops, a subtle script… And Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds were both divine.

(Can you tell I liked it?)

This new version is written by Simon Burke, who scripted some Cadfaels and also the 1997 Tom Jones. Our new Anne is Sally Hawkins, whose synchronicity credit came when she played Mary Shelley in the 2003 BBC Byron (starring Jonny Lee Miller).

More synchronicity (okay, this is post-Regency, but I don’t care) comes with Rupert Penry-Jones, who plays Wentworth. In the Ciaran Hinds Jane Eyre, he played St John Rivers. Plus, Alice Krige (who was La Marquesa in Sharpe’s Honour, Mary Godwin in Haunted Summer, and is best known as Star Trek’s Borg Queen) plays Lady Russell.

The piece of casting, though, that many will find hardest to take, is Anthony Stewart Head as Sir Walter. Many who know him as Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are crossing their fingers that they’ll buy him in this very different role. (I hope so — how rotten for an actor to be forever typecast!)

Good news: the earlier rumor that this Persuasion was also to be filmed entirely in Ireland was quite untrue; scenes were filmed in the Bath Assembly Rooms, at #1 Royal Crescent, and at other locations in Bath.

The last of the new adaptations, the Andrew Davies-scripted Sense and Sensibility, has not yet debuted in the UK, so I know little about it.

What I do know: as opposed to the other three new Austen adaptations, all of which aired on ITV and had running times of two hours (including commercials), Sense and Sensibility is a BBC production, and will run three hours (which I think is a good idea!)

It stars Hattie Morahan (pictured above left) as Elinor, and Dominic Cooper (right) as Willoughby. (Those of you who saw History Boys will recognize Cooper as the rakish heart-breaker Dakin.)

So…what do you think? Which Jane Austen adaptation are you most looking forward to? Most worried about?

Do you think I’m being too negative about certain things? Should I have a more open mind? Or are you, too, leery about some of these choices?

What do you think of Austen adaptations in general?

All opinions welcome!

Cara King, author of MY LADY GAMESTER and obsessive Austen-adaptation fan

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 15 Replies

Today is Memorial Day, the day set aside by the US after the Civil War to honor military personnel who have lost their lives in service to their country. Memorial Day is particularly poignant for Americans this year, with so many of our soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice.

As the daughter of an Army officer, I have a particular regard for soldiers. Some of the heroes of my books are soldiers, and in all my books the war with Napoleon is mentioned. I love my Regency soldiers. I secretly yearn to write some Napoleonic war romances, sort of like Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, except love stories. I own a brazillion books on the Napoleonic war and its soldiers. It seemed fitting today to tell you about one of them: Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula Letters and Diaries of Major The Honorable Edward Charles Cocks 1786-1812, Julia V. Page, editor (1986, Spellmount Ltd)

Major Cocks served in various capacities in the Peninsular war. He was attached to the regular Spanish army for a time and also with the 16th Light Dragoons. He worked as an intelligence officer behind enemy lines, performed special missions for Wellington, and was a field officer commanding soldiers. His family wanted him in Parliament, but Charles, as he was called, loved soldiering more than anything else. He was the consummate professional soldier, very much in his element in the war in Spain.

In a letter to his uncle, Charles wrote:

Few regard soldiers in their true light, that is as a body of men giving up many individual pleasures and comforts for a general national advantage, coupled certainly with the hope of personal fame and at the same time preserving more individual independence than any class of men….Men unused to war and ignorant of its ways regard slodiers as pernicious characters because they always figure them as intent on the desruction of their enemy, but a soldier only meets his foe now and then and he is every day engaged in reciprocal offices of kindness with his comrades….for my part I think there is much less ferocity in putting your foe to death when you see him aiming at your life, than in coolly rejoicing in your cabinet at home at successes purchased by the blood of thousands–Your dutiful and affectionate nephew, E. Charles Cocks

On October 8, 1812, Charles was acting as a field officer in the seige of Burgos. In the hours before dawn he led his men up a slope to regain the outer wall. When he reached the top, a French soldier fired straight at him. The ball passed through his chest, piercing the artery above his heart. He died instantly.

That morning Wellington strode into Ponsonby’s office, paced to and fro without speaking for several minutes. He started back toward the door, saying only, “Cocks is dead” before he walked out. Later Wellington wrote, “He (Cocks) is on every ground the greatest loss we have yet sustained.” When Wellington stood at his graveside, ashen-faced and remote, none of his officers dared speak to him.

Admiration for valor, gratitude for sacrifice, grief at loss. Today is not very different than 1812.

My father, Daniel J. Gaston, pictured here circa 1940s, was not called upon to make a soldier’s ultimate sacrifice. He reached an advanced age, long enough to see his daughters well-situated and happy, and his grandchildren grown. He died peacefully in 2001 before my writing career took off.

Do you have a soldier, real or fictional, who deserves tribute?

Would you like more war romances?

Can you think of any Napoleonic war romances (Heyer’s An Infamous Army comes to mind and one of Mary Jo Putney’s, featuring a blood transfusion–title fails me)?

To all our soldiers……Thanks

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