Friday, 26 May 2017

Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors

Lucy Worsley takes viewers on a literary adventure

Written by Ben Felsenburg
They are the eternal values of the English bourgeoisie. Manners. Class. And of course, property. And they seep through not only the pages, but also the life of the most Ben-Felsenburg-colour-176quintessentially English middle-class author of all. In Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors (Saturday, BBC2, 9pm), the learned Lucy Worsley traipses across the south of England, following the writer’s journey from one address to the next. In a Hampshire field, an archeologist sketches out the outline of where there once stood the rectory in which the young Jane grew up. Over in Bath is the then newly built and fashionably elegant townhouse the family later rented for £150 a year.

A surprisingly modest reception room in a not-so-grand country estate is the setting for a ball where she formed a liking for a dashing young lawyer, whose only fault was, apparently, wearing too lightly coloured a coat, until his disapproving family snuffed out their budding flirtation. Etched into the walls of the London offices of publisher John Murray are the memories of Austen’s novels jostling with Byron’s poems.

Mixing pride, prejudice, and location, location, location, Worsley recasts literary scholarship as a rollicking literary adventure. But there’s only one item of property that counts: the mahogany writer’s desk that the reverend George Austen elected to give his daughter as a 19th birthday present, upon which her pen scratched her sharp-witted storytelling into immortality.



THE HANDMAID'S TALE (Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm)
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian vision of women reduced to ‘breeders’ is adapted into a compelling, if terrifying, drama.

SPRING-WATCH (Monday, BBC2, 8pm)
From the National Trust’s Sherborne park in Gloucestershire, with Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games.

FARGO (Wednesday, Channel 4, 10pm)
A double dose of Ewan McGregor playing feuding brothers in Minnesota: the brilliant, blackly comic crime drama returns.

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