Never let it be said that I allowed my excitement--nay, my sheer giddy fervor!--over the Hallmark Channel’s upcoming Jane Austen month to eclipse the ostensibly classier Austen project likely coming to our TV screens this year.
I’m talking about PBS’s four-part adaptation of Miss Austen, Gill Hornby’s 2020 novel about Cassandra Austen and her much-lamented-by-posterity decision to burn most of her sister’s letters.
Last month, PBS announced that filming of Miss Austen had begun in the UK, with a cast of well-known British actors, headed by the wonderful Keeley Hawes. An air date hasn’t been announced, but online speculation suggests we can expect it sometime during Masterpiece’s 2024-25 season. (This Miss Austen is not to be confused with the 2008 PBS offering Miss Austen Regrets, wherein the Miss Austen in question is Jane.)
Personally, I found Hornby's novel a bit on the bland side, if less tedious than her follow-up Austen-themed novel, Godmersham Park. And four episodes? Seems excessive. But a good cast and a clever writer can work wonders with even mediocre source material, so I’m determinedly looking forward to this one.
Meanwhile, I must note the curious Austenian overlap here: Hawes is married to Matthew Macfadyen, who played Mr. Darcy in the 2005 feature film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley. Which goes to show that a) the world of British drama is a small one; and b) roughly 75 percent of the people in that world have appeared in at least one Jane Austen-themed adaptation.