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Miss Austen Regrets (2008)

TV Movie  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  3 February 2008 (USA)
7.2
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In the later years of her life, as she's approaching the age of forty, the novelist Jane Austen helps her niece find a husband.

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Title: Miss Austen Regrets (TV Movie 2008)

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In the later years of her life, as she's approaching the age of forty, the novelist Jane Austen helps her niece find a husband.

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Genres:

Biography | Drama

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3 February 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Io, Jane Austen  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The red print dress Phyllida Law wears at the picnic is the same costume Wendy Hughes (Mrs. Worrall) wears in Princess Caraboo (1994), and Elizabeth Devonport wears in The Regency House Party (2004). See more »

Quotes

Jane Austen: What if you do meet him
[the right man]
Jane Austen: and he doesn't have any money?
Fanny Austen-Knight: But if I love him then nothing else matters!
Jane Austen: What in heavens name gave you that idea?
Fanny Austen-Knight: It says so in all your books.
Edward Austen Knight: [gravely] If that's what you think they say, my dear, perhaps, you should read them again.
See more »

Connections

Version of Becoming Jane (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Drowsy Maggie
(uncredited)
Traditional
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User Reviews

 
This film screwed up differently than Becoming Jane did
16 August 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I SO wanted to absolutely love this movie. I did. Don't get me wrong -- it got a lot right. It was on Masterpiece Theater, for heaven's sake, and the script generally tried to stay closer to the few facts we have about Austen's life. It had decent direction and adept, credible Brits portraying Jane and her family. And yet, there was one huge flaw that I just couldn't ignore. Miss Austen Regrets would have us believe that Jane had several offers of marriage during her lifetime but knowingly and deliberately chose to remain single and focus on her work. This is a 20th to 21st century conceit awkwardly imposed on a 19th century situation.

The few facts we have show that Jane received only one marriage proposal during her life, and that was from someone with an irritating personality. Harris Bigg-Wither was described by Jane's niece Caroline Austen and by one of his own descendants, Reginald Bigg-Wither, as unattractive at best: he was plain, if not homely, stuttered, aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless. Those objectionable qualities, despite his comfortable financial position, would have put off many women, then *or* now. Had he had a more pleasing personality, Harris might have tried first for a fiancée from a more prosperous family instead of proposing to Jane.

Moreover, Jane had known Harris since childhood and probably knew full well what she'd be getting into if she decided to marry him. To endure Bigg-Wither every so often at social occasions was one thing, but to marry him and have to endure that personality day in and day out would have been quite another. The simplest explanation is that Austen initially agreed to his proposal in order to be less of a burden to and/or provide for her family, but she knew him too well not to immediately regret her decision the next morning -- and thus she reneged on her acceptance in less than a day, and remained single. She probably considered that the lesser of two evils.

The truth, then, is *not* that Jane Austen turned down acceptable proposals and made a conscious decision to put her writing first and stay independent, particularly given that she *never was* financially independent, but rather that no handsome, sweet-tempered, intelligent man, with or without means, ever asked her. She may have had such men as friends or acquaintances, but none of them ever proposed. If one had, remaining single would have been a much harder decision -- but that's moot, because such a man never did ask. Period. And that's a rude truth she had to suffer for all her adult life. It's not a truth that Miss Austen Regrets chose to address, however, and that is the film's greatest failing.


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