Who will win … Austen or Bronte?

2019 was, for me, a year of frustration.  I’d no sooner complete one project when I was late on another.  Things I assumed I’d handled successfully, unraveled into chaos.  Appointments were cancelled and rescheduled at the last minute. Checks and invitations got lost in the mail. 

You know … it was that kind of year and so when I heard that Masterpiece Theatre was broadcasting a new rendition of Jane Austen’s incomplete and posthumously published novel Sanditon, I figured, finally something to look forward to. But alas. Not that it was bad entertainment; it just wasn’t the Jane I’ve known all these years.  Below we have the hero and the heroine in some screenwriter’s idea of a romantic scene:

Mr. Parker: “I say Miss Heyward.  Would you mind dreadfully if I warmed my frigid male instrument in your silk petticoats?”

Miss Heyward:  “Mr. Parker. Kindly return to the sea so that the bass who nibbled off half your cock can bite off the rest!”

The first thing amiss for me about Sanditon was the father sending his daughter off to a naughty seaside resort with perfect strangers and only a brief admonishment to “trust no one.”  While it’s true that fathers in Austen novels tend to be either doddering hypochondriacs (as in Emma), vain and conceited nitwits (Persuasion), or witty curmudgeons (Pride and Prejudice)  they would have never sent their daughters off with a couple they just met.  

Mr. Bennet of P&P: For what do we live but to make sport of our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?

Even if her father was worthless (or dead), an Austen heroine could always depend on a wise older woman to dispense good sound moral judgment. In some cases the advice is wrong (Lady Russell in Persuasion) but it’s always well meant. The only woman giving advice to the heroine of Sanditon is Lady Denham who reminded me of an aging madam in a house of ill-repute.  No woman of that day and age would discuss money with a man except a prostitute. 

The heroine of Sanditon, Charlotte Heyward

Which brings me to the main character.  Was it just me or does the actress playing Charlotte Heyward bear an uncanny resemblance to Meghan Markel? I half expected Prince Harry to show up and  comment on her ruddy complexion. “I say, you’re no English Rose but won’t my granny shit her knickers if I marry an American divorcee!” 

The real Meghan Merkel

Instead Sidney Parker roars along a coastal cliff in a two person carriage scowling like a mad dog.  And why?  Apparently he’s responsible for a rebellious and suicidal heiress from the West Indies. Life is such a drag. Plot sound familiar? 

Rochester, old chap, you’re in the wrong production! Return to Jane Eyre, immediately.

Of course, being an Austen-inspired production, Charlotte and Sidney Parker will misunderstand each other, pout and huff about, and then fall madly in love after he selflessly saves the town.  However, if Bronte again haunts the screenwriters, we may find out Sidney Parker is secretly married to the heiress from the West Indies. After he suggests that they lock her in an attic and live in sin, Charlotte will have a come to Jesus moment, and run off to live on the moors with a religious zealot and his two sisters who coincidentally turn out to be long lost cousins.  When she finally returns, Sanditon will be in ruins and Sidney Parker hobbled and at her mercy.  A true Bronte ending to a Jane Austen story.