Jane Austen's side hustle
By Deborah Yaffe, Dec 5 2019 02:00PM
These days, it takes a lot for an instance of Austenian inaccuracy to surprise me. I hardly turn a hair when quotes from Austen screen adaptations are attributed to Austen’s novels, or when movies that barely gesture toward her plots brandish titles implying a close relationship to the original, or when cosmetic and hygiene products unknown to the Regency claim an association with her brand.
So hats off to Republic World, an online news platform from India, for pulling me up short with its recent listicle “Hollywood Movie Adaptations: Five Classics That Were Adapted From Plays.”
Three of the items on the list are filmed versions of Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo + Juliet), while a fourth is the adaptation of a Broadway classic, Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.
The fifth item is the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility, based, in this telling, on “the original play. . . written by legendary playwright and author Jane Austen.”
We could, I suppose, spend time contemplating writer Drushti Sawant’s selection of the adjective “legendary”: did she mean to imply that Austen’s status as a playwright is a matter of legend, rather than fact? Or we might speculate that Sawant has chosen sides in the scholarly debate over whether Jane Austen or her young niece Anna was the true author of the play Sir Charles Grandison, the manuscript of which is now in the possession of Jane Austen’s House Museum.
Or we might go for the simplest explanation and conclude that Sawant figured the Austen name is always good for clickbait, even when the novelist herself has absolutely no relevance to the topic at hand.
Either way, Sawant did manage to surprise me. Which is something, I guess.