WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Pug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Pug

If you’re a Regency era aficionado, the mere mention of this week’s word evokes an immediate image.

Lady Bertram and Pug, from Mansfield Park, 1999, starring Lindsay Duncan.

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience, guided in everything important by Sir Thomas, and in smaller concerns by her sister.
~Mansfield Park, Chapter 2


A Dutch pug; a kind of lap-dog, formerly much in vogue.

Yelena and Alexandra Kourakine by Vladimir Borovikovsky, 1802, The Louvre.

I admit that most Pugs I have ever encountered were overweight and overindulged in every sense of the world, with owners very much like Lady Bertram (and not all of them female, mind you). As with those I know with Pugs, Lady Bertram is never far from her beloved. When her husband, Sir Thomas, returns from his trip to the Caribbean, she is excited to see him. Although she moves Pug a bit, he is not displaced by much.

By not one of the circle was he listened to with such unbroken, unalloyed enjoyment as by his wife, who was really extremely happy to see him, and whose feelings were so warmed by his sudden arrival as to place her nearer agitation than she had been for the last twenty years. She had been almost fluttered for a few minutes, and still remained so sensibly animated as to put away her work, move Pug from her side, and give all her attention and all the rest of her sofa to her husband.
~Mansfield Park, Chapter 19

Portrait of Sylvie de la Rue by François van der Donckt, 1806, Groeninge Museum, Bruges.

Mary Wollstonecraft has one of the best quotes about little dogs – and for my purposes I am going to assume she is speaking of Pugs – that I have ever come across in her book, In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Although her statement says more about the owner than the dog. She groused:

I have been desired to observe the pretty tricks of a lap-dog, that my perverse fate forced me to travel with. Is it surprising that such a tasteless being should rather caress this dog than her children? Or, that she should prefer the rant of flattery to the simple accents of sincerity?
~Chapter 12

Princess Ekaterina Dmitrievna Golitsyna by Louis-Michel van Loo, 1759, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

The Pug is considered one of the oldest breeds in the world, documented by none other than Confucius (known as Lo-Sze in Chinese) in 551 BC. According to Georgian England’s Top Dogs, they were valued for their “small size, short coat, and their Prince Mark – three wrinkles on the forehead and a vertical bar form a marking that repeats the Chinese character for Prince.” By the early 16th century, direct trade to China brought notice of the noble Pug to Europe; they were said to have arrived in England via the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary in 1688. Unfortunately, they became the indolent discriminating discerning lady’s accessory du jour, along with an African American page boy.  As such, the popularity of the Pug as fashion statement slowly declined as the 19th century, hopefully as sensibility progressed.

The Drumplier Pugs by Gourlay Steell, circa 1867, via Wellcome Images.

But never fear! The Pug was down but not out. Queen Victoria is credited with bringing back the popularity of the breed: she kept thirty-six over the course of her reign. The first Pugs arrived in America by the end of the Civil War, and were one of the fifteen recognized breeds of the American Kennel Club in 1885. Not bad for a dog that essentially warmed laps, tickled toes, and “photo” bombed paintings of ladies.

Portrait of a Lady with her Pug Dog, Mid 19th Century German School in the style of the 16th Century, Bridgeman Images.

In my family we have a silly saying: if you can kill the dog by stepping on it, it’s not the pet for us. This likely says more about us than the appropriateness of tiny dogs. William Hogarth would no doubt reprimand our temerity, as well as stoutly disagree that Pugs were only for the ladies. He was the proud owner of several, likened their blunt faces and mannerisms to his own, and, according to Rivaat Zarlif of Sartle, had “the little gargoyles show up in lots of paintings as satirical jabs at pompous characters in his paintings.”

Self-Portrait with Pug Dog by William Hogarth, 1745, Tate Gallery, London.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

I love doggies. All shapes, sizes, and breeds. No wonder I’ve developed an affinity for the Regency era. Simply Google “Regency era dogs” and your screen will be inundated with pages of images (just a paltry 525,000 results). My fondness for dogs naturally lent itself to a fondness for Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park, my least favorite Austen novel.

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children… Mansfield Park, Chapter 2

Portrait of Sylvie de la Rue by Francois van der Donckt, 1810, Groeninge Museum, Bruges.

She is a simple woman of a fairly simple mind, but doggedly (sorry, not sorry) devoted to her precious Pug. Not counting Edward and his ambiguous feelings, surely no one paid Fanny so great a compliment as Lady Bertram:

And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added, “And I will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy.” Mansfield Park, Chapter 33


The childish name for a dog.

The Misses de Balleroy by Henri-Francois Riesener, between 1805-1815, Columbia Museum of Art.

Regency England was mad for dogs. Regency ladies, especially, kept their tiny little canine companions close, if the sheer number of portraits of ladies and their dogs is any indication. I know dog fighting was also a popular “entertainment” of the time, but I shall “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” I shall dwell on a small selection of doggies, great and small.

Frederica, Duchess of York by Peter Edward Stroehling.

According to the Georgian Index, Regency England’s top dogs were English Bulldogs, Collies, Dalmatians, Great Danes, English Foxhounds, Greyhounds, English Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, English Pointers, Pomeranians, Poodles, Pugs, Curly Coated Retrievers, Spaniels, and Terriers.

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington by Peter Edward Stroehling, year unknown, Thirlestane Castle.

Jane Austen’s World has a thorough and sometimes difficult-to-read post about Georgian Era dogs, illuminating the wide variety of roles occupied by canines: from faithful companion to hunting champion to paid entertainer to abandoned garbage-scavenger in the slums. I won’t retype her findings here, but it is a must-read for the curious.

Le Bon Genre, No. 35. Le Chiens a la Mode.

Dogs even made their mark in the fashion world.

Observoateur des Modes, No. 454, Bureau, rue Feydeau, No. 20. Modes Parisienne.

Winter Carriage Dress, La Belle Assemblée, 1818.

I’ll close with a few more favorites discovered in my massive Google search.

The Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Gisborne of Leicestershire, 1786, by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Good Companions by Vittorio Reggianini, private collection.

The Pet by Vittorio Reggianini.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobberdehoy

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobberdehoy

I think we all know someone who needs to act their age rather than their shoe size (to paraphrase Prince). This week’s word may be more a literal reference to age rather than behavior, but it’s easier to illustrate the latter, so I beg your indulgence of my interpretation.

Hobberdehoy (noun)

Half a man and half a boy, a lad between both.

For the ultimate Regency boy-man, I of course thought of the Prince Regent, the patron saint of leisure, fashion, and food, and extravagance in all three. He was criticized as selfish, careless, and inconstant, offering no direction to the country during his father’s incapacitation or the wars with Napoleon and America. His legacy is self-aggrandizement for all things frivolous and profligate.

George IV by Thomas Lawrence, 1822, Chatsworth House Chintz Bedroom.

George IV by Thomas Lawrence, 1822, Chatsworth House Chintz Bedroom.

The remaining behavioral visual aids for Hobberdehoys may be fictional – but they fit my thematic rendering rather well. And of course they came from the inspired mind of Jane Austen. Upon examination, I found a Hobberdehoy in each of her novels.

Do you agree with my choices?

Allesandro Nivola as Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, 1999.

Allesandro Nivola as Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, 1999.

Rupert Evans as Frank Churchill in Emma.

Rupert Evans as Frank Churchill in Emma, 2009.

William Beck as John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, 2007.

William Beck as John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, 2007.

Anthony Head as Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, 2007.

Anthony Head as Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, 2007.

Greg Wise as Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Greg Wise as Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Adrian Lukis as George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Adrian Lukis as George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.


Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends

Just like last week, we’re once again in the realm of gaming; specifically, cards. This post is a bit longer than my usual WOWs, but that’s because it will need to tide you over until 2017. The next two weeks will find me tucked away with my family making all things merry! I wish you warm cocoa, warm fires, and warm hearts this holiday season!

Blocked at Both Ends

Finished. The game is blocked at both ends; the game is ended.

There is an aphorism that I consider half-right: it is how you play the game . . . but it’s also fine to say winning is usually the hoped-for outcome. To wit: if you want to win at Regency parlor games, you’ve got to know how to play.

I first read about Regency card games in Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter. I knew nothing about the game, yet Heyer’s deft and focused touch kept the details interesting and understandable. I was never lost by the maneuvers and machinations.

So in case you need a new game to play whilst stuck indoors with too much food (and perhaps too much family) this holiday season, let’s learn the basics of play for some Regency parlor games.

Cassino (also, Casino; there is actually controversy about the spelling, according to Pagat)

Cassino made its first documented appearance in London at the end of the eighteenth century. The main objective of the game is to capture cards from a layout of face up cards on the table. A card is captured by playing a matching card from the player’s hand. It is also possible to capture several cards at once if their values add up to the value of the card played. Captured cards are held by the winner and scored at the end of the play. Two to four players make up each game.

Italian deck of cards for Cassino.

Italian deck of cards for Cassino.

Commerce (also, Thirty-One, Whisky Poker, and Bastard Brag)

I grew up playing this game (we played for M&Ms and Skittles and thought we were So. Cool.) so I’ll simply explain it like I play it. A game can have three to ten players; one deck of cards is used and Aces are high. Players contribute equal stakes to the pool, then receive three cards from the dealer. Three cards are then dealt face up on the table to form the “widow.” The dealer can swap out 1-2 of his cards with the widow to “make his hand.” Once the dealer is satisfied with his hand, players may look at their cards. There are usually as many rounds as there are players, and a fresh card is added to the “widow” at the beginning of each round. Once a player is satisfied with his cards, he knocks on the table; play stops once two players have knocked. Players then show their cards and the holder of the best combination receives the stakes deposited in the pool; the player with the worst hand puts in one counter called “Going Up.”

  • Tricon – three of a kind
  • Sequence – three cards of the same suit, in order
  • Flush – three cards of the same suit (the highest wins)
  • Pair – two similar cards (highest pair wins)
    Point – cards added up by their face value (Ace 11, Kings 10, etc.)

They all spent the evening together at Thorpe’s. Catherine was disturbed and out of spirits; but Isabella seemed to find a pool of commerce, in the fate of which she shared, by private partnership with Morland, a very good equivalent for the quiet and country air of an inn at Clifton.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 11

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends. Pictured, "Doings In A Hell."


This is the game your mother warned you about. It ruined smarter, better, and wealthier people than you. What began as the politest of card games in Italy and France under the name Basset became quite different when its ancestor was outlawed. Faro was the overwhelmingly tempting open secret of gaming halls and private card parties alike. A suit of cards was glued face-up, Ace to King, on an oval of green baize known as the board. The dealer was called theBbanker, and players were known as Punters. Punters laid stakes on one of the 13 cards on the board. Just to complicate the issue, Punters could also place side bets on multiple cards by laying their wagers between or on card edges. Bets ranged from one to one hundred guineas (or more) upon a single card. There are myriad rules on payout and further play that I will explain via the Seinfeld example: yada-yada-yada, the bank wins big and the gamblers lose.

Fun fact: after migrating to the United States in the mid-1800s, it swept that country with the speed of western expansion and the zeal of the gold rush. Criminal cases concerning faro were even argued all the way to the Supreme Court (United States v. Simms, 1803 and Ex parte Milburn, 1835). Mark Twain declared:

A dollar picked up in the road is more satisfaction to us than the 99 which we had to work for, and the money won at Faro or in the stock market snuggles into our hearts in the same way.

Faro's Daughters, or the Kenyonian blow up to Gamblers by Isaac Cruikshank, 16 May 1796, Digital Collections, Yale University Library.

Faro’s Daughters, or the Kenyonian blow up to Gamblers by Isaac Cruikshank, 16 May 1796, Digital Collections, Yale University Library. Ha! I see what you did their, Georgette Heyer.

Loo (also, Lanterloo)

A minimum of five players use all 52 cards. Each is dealt 3-5 cards (gamers choice) and after looking at their hand, they can drop out without charge or elect to stay in, paying to play. Committing to play requires the player to win at least one trick (thereby winning one-third or one-fifth of the total pool). Fail this, and pay a penalty amount equal to the whole pot – you’ve been “looed.” The pot carries forward and increases with each hand: great for the winner, potentially ruinous for the loser.

Loo in the Kitchin or High Life below Stairs by Isaac Cruikshank, published by Rudolph Ackermann 25 June 1799, Digital Collections, Yale University Library.

Loo in the Kitchin or High Life below Stairs by Isaac Cruikshank, published by Rudolph Ackermann 25 June 1799, Digital Collections, Yale University Library.


Here’s the card game I’m determined to play this holiday. It seems so terribly refined yet cutthroat at the same time. I love that the English pronounce it “Picket” rather than the French “P.K.” Two players, 36 cards (Aces to Sixes), with each hand divided into five parts:

  • Blanks and Discards
  • Ruffs
  • Sequences
  • Sets
  • Tricks

The dealer is called the Younger while the player is called the Elder. Each player is dealt twelve cards, in groups of 2-4, depending on the part, with the remaining twelve cards lying in a stack between the opponents. The first player to score 100 is the winner. The rules on scoring for each part are lengthy but actually seem relatively straightforward. You can find a thorough explanation of them, with illustrations, at Historic Card Games.

Pope Joan

Something about the name of this game makes me feel like I’d be getting away with something sacrilegious if I were to play it. Or that I’m making light of something that could lead to my eternal damnation. Hmm.

Pope Joan is considered a Victorian card game because of its widespread popularity during that time, but we know it was played as early as 1732, courtesy the Oxford English Dictionary. Dickens even referred to it as an “old fashioned card party” in Chaper 6 of The Pickwick Papers.

Up to eight players may play, using a standard 52-card deck, but also a circular playing board resembling that of Roly-Poly or E-O. The board is divided into eight compartments: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Pope 9, Game, Intrigue (trump Queen + Jack), and Matrimony (trump King + Queen). Each player “dresses” each compartment with two counters, which could be anything from farthings to guineas. The object is to win counters by playing out cards corresponding to the labelled compartments on the board, and to be the first to run out of cards. The rules are again lengthy but manageable, and expertly explained by Dave Parlett at Historic Card Games.

Pope Joan board, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX.

Pope Joan board, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX.

Pope Joan board detail, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX

Pope Joan board detail, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX


All of the card game rule sites state “several” may play Speculation, so that could possibly mean as many as your table will seat. Honestly, play for this game is the simplest of all I’ve study so far. Each player begins the game with the same number of markers – fish – from which to ante at the beginning of each hand.

Fish markers for the game of Speculation. They are also called chips. I swear this is not my attempt at a bad pun.

Fish markers for the game of Speculation. They are also called chips. I swear this is not my attempt at a bad pun.

Players are each dealt three cards, face down; after all have cards, the dealer turns the next one face up to determine the trump suit. This card belongs to the dealer (if he turns over an Ace, he’s won, and play ends before it began). If it is a high enough trump, players may offer to buy it. Players then turn over their cards, one at a time in progression around the table from the dealer’s left. If a higher trump card is revealed, the possessor may sell or keep it, and any player may make him an offer. Players may also offer to buy or trade for any face-down cards, sight unseen, at any time.

All trading and auctioning is done in pursuit of acquiring the highest trump card. Cards rank from Ace high to 2 low. The game ends when all cards have been revealed or when somebody turns the Ace; the owner of the highest trump wins the pot.

Jane Austen wrote of Speculation in Mansfield Park:

In the evening it was found, according to the predetermination of Mrs. Grant and her sister, that after making up the whist-table there would remain sufficient for a round game, and everybody being as perfectly complying and without a choice as on such occasions they always are, speculation was decided on almost as soon as whist; and Lady Bertram soon found herself in the critical situation of being applied to for her own choice between the games, and being required either to draw a card for whist or not. She hesitated.
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Chapter 25

Speculation card deck.

Speculation card deck.

Vingt-et-un (also, Vingt-un, Twenty-One, or Pontoon)

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends. Pictured, Georgian gamblers.

Any number of people may play; a standard 52-card deck is used, although with six or more players, two decks would be combined. Money or markers are used for wagering. The value of the cards is the same as their pip, with face cards worth ten; the Ace can be worth one or eleven, player’s choice. The dealer gives each player two cards, and the player may hold with these or add as many as he wishes. The object of the game is to form a hand whose total value is at or near twenty-one, without going over.


Whist arose from the game Ruff and Honours – how great a name is that?! – as reported by Charles Cotton in The Compleat Gamester, 1674. It is a plain-trick game without bidding, with four players in fixed partnerships of two and seated across the table from each other; it is strictly forbidden for partners to “talk across the table” or remark on their cards or play in any way. Cards rank from Ace highest to Two lowest, with trumps determined by the final card laid down by the dealer after having dispensed the rest of the cards. He placed the trump card in the middle of the table and play then began to the dealer’s left. The first player may lead any card in his hand, with play proceeding clockwise order, following suit of the card led. A player with no card of that suit may discard (play a card of another suit) or play a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the lead suit or by trump. The winner of the trick leads the next round, and play continues until all thirteen tricks are played. When finished, the score is recorded. Think Spades or Pinochle today.

Two-Penny Whist by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 11 January 1796, National Portrait Gallery.

Two-Penny Whist by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 11 January 1796, National Portrait Gallery.

In conclusion, for your further reading pleasure – and to get a glimpse into contemporaneous gambling – trek over to Susanna Ives‘s internet home to read a Sad Tale of Gambling Woe from 1804.


Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Fice

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Fice

Three cheers for feisty heroines in Regency Romance, right?!


You go, grrl. A woman driving a high perch phaeton by Thomas Rowlandson.

You go, grrl. A woman driving a high perch phaeton by Thomas Rowlandson.

Feisty is one of those potentially pesky anachronisms that look good on paper but don’t stand up to etymological scrutiny. Authors mean for their heroines to be courageous, spirited, lively, and bold, yet still cut a proper figure in society. They aren’t intimating their leading ladies are, in fact, late-Victorian era Americans who are “aggressive, exuberant, or touchy” lasses with a whiff of “stinking cur dog” who’ve time traveled back to Georgian England.

But that’s exactly what feisty means.

Elizabeth Stokes, Lady Bareknuckles

Elizabeth Stokes, Lady Bareknuckles

It’s an adjective from 1896 American English, and it’s not at all attractive or empowering when applied to a lady. In fact, feisty hails from fysting curre (stinking cur) from the 1520s, which in turns hails from the mid-15th Century Middle English fysten/fisten, meaning to break wind. It’s goes fully vulgar in both Danish (fise) and German (fistiz): a fart.

So that feisty heroine is a she-dog with room-clearing digestive issues.

Mary Read, lady pirate

Mary Read, lady pirate

But what about the argument that modern readers will apply the modern definition and admire that spunky daughter of an Earl who won’t bend to the will of man, mother, or Society? If the word really fits, and readers won’t be tripped up, should we chance it?

Consider the current, modern definition of feisty:

  1. Full of nervous energy; fidgety; touchy, quarrelsome; exuberantly frisky
  2. Having or showing a lively aggressiveness

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds

Despite the definition still being a bit unflattering, I think most people assume and associate feisty with positive connotations – the woman who won’t take no for an answer, fights for what she wants or those she loves, and won’t give up until all options are exhausted. Is feisty an auto-antonym (also known as contranym, antagonym, enantiodrome, or antilogy)? Does feisty have multiple meanings, with one defined as the opposite of its other meanings?

It seems likely. But Dame Helen Mirren DBE still says just say no.

Two phrases I hate in reference to female characters are ‘strong’ and ‘feisty.’ They really annoy me. It’s the most condescending thing. You say that about a three-year-old. It infantilises women.

I’m not completely sold that I ever want to be described as feisty, but I’m a wordy girl, so I’ll take plucky, intrepid, cheeky, or even mettlesome instead.

To be on the safe, historically correct side, here’s a contemporaneous Word of the Week with connections to feisty. Although a noun rather than adjective, it would be a comically-inspired addition to a plot line about the lady-of-a-certain-age character (but not so much the bold rosebud of a heroine). I’m looking at you, Lady Bertram.

Aunt Norris gives her opinion while Lady Bertram and her pug receive it, in Mansfield Park by the Indianapolis Opera.

Aunt Norris, Lady Bertram, and Pug, in Mansfield Park by the Indianapolis Opera.

Fice (noun)

A small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies and charged to their lap-dogs. See also, fizzle.

Ye olde silent-but-deadly, by jove.

So what’s the moral of this post? I love a strong heroine, and they are not an historical anachronism. I believe every generation is full of women who know the rules and how to work them, or break them to build better ones, without causing utter chaos nor bringing degradation to all who know her. However, the next time you read a Regency Romance with a feisty heroine, I recommend using your best judgment when deciding if it’s an unforgiveable anachronism or misunderstood modern definition.

Just try not to picture her breaking wind.

Want some proof that history is positively rife with modern-in-any-age women (as well as bust a few myths about sexual mores and gender roles in the Georgian era)? Have a gander:

The best Mansfield Park adaptation you’ve not seen

The best Mansfield Park adaptation you’ve not seen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Janeite in possession of a free afternoon must be in want of an Austen adaptation.

jane austen gives women unrealistic expectations

My least favorite Austen story is Mansfield Park. I’m just lukewarm to Fanny and Edmund. After an entire novel’s worth of watching and wishing by Fanny, and chummy brotherliness by Edmund, their ending seems less happily ever after as just – well – ever after. The argument could be made that two such meh people deserve are perfect for each other, and that love doesn’t always have to be passionate or tempestuous, but….pfft. I’ve always wished instead for Henry and Fanny to be transformed by love for each other. I wanted his liveliness to balance out her solemnity. I wanted her maturity to bring out responsibility in him. Together, he’d no longer be mercurial and she’d throw off the garb of milquetoast.

Sure, the story features Mary Crawford, Maria Betram Rushworth, and Aunt Norris – the original mean girls trifecta – blissfully selfish and possessed of doctorates in passive aggression. But secondary characters can’t carry or redeem an otherwise staid novel. I tolerate like them for the spice they add to the story, but I really only hope they get what they deserve. I have more sympathy and interest in the futures of Rushworth and Tom Bertram than I honestly do in Fanny and Edmund.

When YouTube suggested I might like a little webseries based on my sixth favorite Austen novel, I was in between television addictions (post Outlander, pre-Downton Abbey), and vulnerably bored. By the third “webisode,” I was pleasantly diverted. By the tenth, I was subscribed. I know it’s neither TV nor HBO, but it’s good. Really good.

mansfield with love horizontal

From Mansfield With Love, adapted and performed by the  Foot in the Door Theatre, is faithful to the original, earnest in its depictions, and utterly captivating. It’s the little adaptation that could. Mansfield Park still belongs to the family Bertram, but is here a country hotel. The Crawfords are Town designers who have come to refurbish the old relic, and Fanny – renamed Frankie – is in housekeeping. She vlogs to her Royal Navy brother Will, tangentially documenting the goings-on in everyone’s lives.

Henry Crawford (Peter Jennison), Mary Crawford (Aloña Walsh), Frankie Price (Holly Truslove), and Ed Bertram (Wesley Buckeridge).

The actors and writers of From Mansfield With Love have managed to make me sympathize with and adore Fanny/Frankie. They’ve also made me do what the book could not: completely ship Franny/Frankie and Henry, then loathe the thought of them together after the big betrayal. Ed Bertram, the congenial lifelong friend and new school teacher, could still do with a kick or two in his posterior. This portrayal, however, fully illustrates how Ed was comfortably complacent until something new shook him up, how his eyes were ultimately opened to what he had when the new spoiled, and how he could lose what he never knew he needed most. When the climax arrives and we see the true Mary, we finally see the true Edmund, thank the good Lord.

And the Rushworths – dear Lord, the Rushworths must be experienced!

The series began nine months ago with an engaging introductory episode. This week is episode 83 and Franny/Frankie is “Running on Empty” now that Henry’s done something again, Tom has been in a horrible accident, and Ed and Mary are having a tiff.  Big things are afoot! Might I suggest it’s a terrific time to binge-watch and catch up for what will undoubtedly be a big ol’ slice of satisfying ending?

PS – The troupe actually made a mini-movie of Lovers’ Vows. You really should watch the lead-up episodes for the squabbling, scheming, lusting, and Tom Bertram tantrums, but if you’ve always wanted to see a black-and-white, art nouveau version of the play, here you go:

PPS – Mary vlogs, too. At first they’re innocuous, just like Mary. They grow increasingly more Mary-ish. So delicious.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Man of the Town

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Man of the Town

Henry Crawford.

‘Tis a name that immediately brings to mind a flurry of descriptors: flirtatious, seductive, immature, frivolous, self-centered, handsome, amusing, glib, conceited. The list could go on and on.

I’m of two minds about Henry. On the surface, he’s the male version of a flibbertigibbet, a consummate conversationalist and flatterer effusive with both compliments and an unending supply of innocuous chatter. Dig a little deeper, and he’s the tortured smooth operator, juggling bad ideas and intentions with an undercurrent of longing for someone to save him from himself. And is there any headier or more foolhardy a challenge than the man in need of the reforming love of a good woman?

Man of the Town (noun)

A rake, debauchee. A spruce, trim, smart fellow in earnest pursuit of pleasure.

For a modern-day illustration, I’m reminded of the intellectually-stimulating, oscar-worthy teen flick, She’s All That.  Most critics call this a remake of Pygmalion or its remake, My Fair Lady, but I think it’s closer to Mansfield Park. Henry Crawford, unrepentant Man of the Town unable to break free from his self-absorption and hedonistic pursuits, is the late Paul Walker’s character Dean Sampson (villain name, to be sure). Henry Crawford’s story with a happy ending, where he realizes the error of his ways and is content to pursue Fanny Price ad infinitum, moving out of shallowness and into maturity, is the Freddie Prinze, Jr. character, Zack Siler.

It’s amazing how many teen movies are simplistic remakes of classic novels.


All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.