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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Using up the leftovers

Before leaving on vacation, I always try to clean out my refrigerator—no point in coming home to sour milk and moldy vegetables. Since I hate wasting food, Operation Empty Fridge requires me to make meals out of the odds and ends hiding way back on the middle shelf. (Any takers for a dish featuring leftover canned tomatoes, half a lemon, two cups of grated Parmesan, and a Korean dipping sauce?)


In a similar Waste Not Want Not spirit, it’s time to update a few Austen-related stories mentioned here some weeks/months/years ago:


--The harp and the pheasant: Earlier this month, British harpist Mike Parker gave a recital of period music featuring an instrument once owned by Jane Austen’s glamorous cousin, and later sister-in-law, Eliza de Feuillide.


A Guardian story on the concert, which was held in the village hall at Chawton, near Austen’s last home, reports that a pheasant’s squawk accompanied part of the performance: the perils of a countryside venue, I guess.


More important, the article offers extra detail about the 250-year-old harp, which Parker bought from a collateral descendant in Belgium, where Eliza and her aristocratic husband had stayed during their flight out of revolutionary France.


The husband eventually returned to France and was guillotined, but Eliza made it to England, where she later married Austen’s brother Henry. The harp, however, remained in Belgium, and by the time Parker learned that it was for sale, it was “derelict,” with a broken neck and “150 years of nicotine on it,” Parker told the newspaper.


But Parker restored the instrument to health. “Once I got it tuned and up to pitch, what came out of it was this beautiful, lovely little sound. It was a voice from the past,” Parker said. “I heard a sound that modern instruments just don’t have. It sang when the world was different.”


--The queen and the players: The UK’s Queen Camilla had two-plus months to come up with a faux Jane Austen title to serve as inspiration for the improv troupe headlining her summer literature festival. On June 11, the suspense was finally broken, as the cast of the West End show Austentatious took the stage at Hampton Court Palace and opened an envelope—actually, a “golden envelope,” according to the staunchly monarchist Telegraph—containing the queen’s choice: “Persuasion and an Odd Occasion.”


OK, maybe she needed more time.


But whatever! Apparently, the cast took this un-euphonious suggestion in stride, producing “a Regency farce involving a spirited young lady with a hint of Elizabeth Bennet, a handsome suitor in the style of Captain Wentworth, and a garden party involving limbo dancing and vodka jelly,” according to the newspaper account.


The festival, sponsored by the Queen’s Reading Room, a charity Camilla founded during the pandemic, is planned as an annual affair, so—better luck next year, Your Majesty?


--The star and the spinoff: Two years ago, we learned that the actor Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, star of the Netflix series Never Have I Ever, would make her feature-film debut playing the Lizzie Bennet character in a Pride and Prejudice update titled The Netherfield Girls. Since then . . . crickets.


Never Have I Ever just wrapped up its fourth and final season, and several publications marked the occasion by reviving talk of Ramakrishnan’s P&P project, now said to have a producer and a director.


What The Netherfield Girls doesn’t seem to have yet is an IMDB listing, so it’s hard to know if this project will come to fruition or go the way of the Sarah Snook Persuasion and the Charlotte Rampling Sanditon.


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