Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors is presented by Lucy Worsley
In a revealing and rather sad one-off, presented by Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors (Saturday, BBC2) toured the many homes lived in and visited by the famous novelist.
She was not so famous in her lifetime and with her clerygyman father dying early and Austen never finding the right man, she was driven into the precarious existence of an 18th-century spinster.
Marriage, the difficulties of obtaining it, the terror of not obtaining it, was a major theme in Jane Austen’s novels but also so were all the houses she found herself perched in.
When not lodging with her mother in a series of increasingly seedy rented homes in Bath, she stayed with friends and at the piles of her wealthy brother Henry.
It was an existence that lent itself well to the business of being a writer, Austen forever slightly on the edge, the poor relation, the pitied guest, observing the life of the house rather than being a part of it.
Worsley pointed out the things she “magpied” for her novels from her circuit of homes.
Gwendolen Chatfield portrayes Jane Austen
The grandiose chapel attached to Mansfield Park was inspired by Stoneleigh Abbey, the Warwickshire seat of her mother’s cousins.
When she first visited with her mother in 1806, the housekeeper showed them around, a scene she later borrowed for Pride And Prejudice.
The sadness of Austen’s story was that perhaps without this difficult existence she would not have become a writer.
At the same time, you had to wonder what she would have become if she’d married one of her well-off suitors, like the splendidly named Henry Bigg-Wither, and spent her days churning out little Bigg-Withers instead of writing books.
Would that have made her happy? I doubt it.
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There was a clue in the title Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip (Sunday, BBC2).
Road trips happen on roads, so vehicles were going to be involved.
In spite of the pantechniconsized hint, I expected to find the celebrity baker touring the cheese markets of Limoges and the salami specialists of Sicily, or at the very least, eating some weird bread.
Paul Hollywood drives famous cars in European countries
Instead, Mr Hollywood is driving the famous cars of various European countries in a bid to get to know the national character.
This was more interesting than I’d expected it to be. He began in Italy, negotiating the delirious Roman traffic in the company of an equally delirious Bruno Tonioli.
He chatted to one of the famous white-gloved traffic cops, who rise like little gods from podiums in the surface of the road.
Thousands apply for the job, we were told, and the lucky cop gets three month’s training.
All that jazz about “understanding the spirit of the nation” wasn’t entirely flimflam either, especially in Italy’s case, where you could see how the tiny, ancient streets of the cities had shaped classics like the Fiat Cinquecento.
The name in English just means five hundred but everything sounds better in Italian and to some degree Paul spent the whole trip trying to find out why.
Excitement was his decent stab at a conclusion, an exciting sounding language, cars that look and sound exciting, a view that life should be exciting too.