Remember the great 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth that induced such raptures in Bridget Jones?
The screenplay came from Andrew Davies, one of the finest living adapters of classic English novels, whose credits include an excellent 1994 miniseries of Middlemarch. Davies also wrote the script for the new two-part Sense and Sensibility that airs tonight and April 6 on PBS, so this one should be worth watching.
A few comments on the novel:
Like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility is not an allegory, though their titles might suggest otherwise. The characters in both novels are more than types. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood – the nominal embodiment of “sense” – has deep emotions and a distinctive sensibility. And Marianne Dashwood (“sensibility”) is too intelligent to view as a creature of pure feeling.
Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel (though she wrote Pride and Prejudice before it). But if you haven’t read any of Austen’s work, this is not the best place to begin.
The first 50 or so pages of Sense and Sensibility move so sluggishly that they might defeat all but diehards. You’ll be more likely to understand why people love Austen if you begin with Pride and Prejudice, which gets off to faster start and has more all-around charm even when Firth isn’t bathing in a copper tub on your screen. Persuasion and Emma also move briskly from beginning to end.
Once you get past those plodding opening chapters, Sense and Sensibility has perhaps the sharpest wit in any of Austen’s books, one reason why I love it. Two of my favorite lines from the novel are:
“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”
“ … a fond mother, though, in pursuit of praise for her children, the most rapacious of human beings, is likewise the most credulous: her demands are exorbitant; but she will swallow anything …” classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/jausten/bl-jausten-sen-21.htm
Photo: Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in the new two-part Sense and Sensibility on PBS www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/austen/index.html .