- Filming Tourism, Portraying Pemberley
The past quarter-century has seen three notable film productions of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice (1813). In 1979, Fay Weldon's screenplay for the BBC featured Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.1 In 1995, Andrew Davies's adaptation for the BBC in collaboration with A&E, The Arts and Entertainment Network, made superstars of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. In 2005, Deborah Moggach (assisted by Emma Thompson) adapted the novel for director Joe Wright and Working Title Films, with Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley in the lead roles. All three versions depict Elizabeth Bennet's excursion to Derbyshire and her visit to Darcy's ancestral home, but all three treat the pivotal moment differently. This article examines the Pemberley sequence in these three adaptations as well as in the novel to see how the touristic moment can be used to reveal a character's understanding of him/herself and others, as well as the reader/viewer's relationship with the past.
Architectural historian Adrian Tinniswood argues that a visit to a country house is not about finding "inner truth" or "historical reality"; [End Page 477] instead, "it is about us, here, now, and our ambivalent relationship with the past. The country house is a cluster of images, with as much to say about contemporary society as it has about what has gone before." 2 Likewise, the way country-house tourism is depicted in art and literature is a direct commentary upon that relationship at a specific temporal moment, and, since Austen's time, that relationship has changed. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the tourist had a tenuous connection to the past. Country-house tourism focused largely on pragmatic concerns of the current day: economics and power, not history. Yet one sees in a novel such as Pride and Prejudice another strain—the romantic—in which the tourist eschews the works of mankind and contemplates mountains, lakes, or even ruined abbeys in solitude. 3 For this second group of tourists, the past was also of minimal interest: only the sublime or the timeless mattered. Modern-day tourism retains romantic tourism with regard to natural attractions but changes its focus with regard to country-house visiting. The tourist wishes to connect with the past, to see history. Since the early 1990s, heritage tourism has become an important niche market in Britain, perhaps riding on the success of celebrated BBC productions. All three versions of Pride and Prejudice reveal heritage values, but the relationship each implies about our connection to the past has altered in the years between them, a change reflected in actual heritage tourism, not just filmic representations of it. Elizabeth views Pemberley from her social position, and the property represents the present, and eventually her future as its mistress. We too view Pemberley from a specific social perspective, but we can find a way to take possession of it, and, eventually, our past. Our changing cultural positions, however, require various modes of taking possession as each successive adaptation of Pride and Prejudice demonstrates.
Tourism is nothing new, and it was often about more than filling time. In the Middle Ages, tourists—pilgrims—visited holy shrines to commune with saints. 4 After the Protestant Reformation in England, secular shrines took their places: the homes of the rich, famous, and [End Page 478] powerful. 5 The aristocrat's country seat was not simply a home; it was his principal source of income and the economy of his part of the world. A visit to a great house, therefore, was a way of seeing England's economic power and a way to come in contact with its political leaders. 6 During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the new Whig ruling class began to build—or rebuild—grand houses that attracted a significant tourist trade: Blenheim Palace, seat of the Duke of Marlborough; Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire; Castle Howard, home of the Earl of Carlisle. 7 Even the wealthy middle class got into the act: Stourhead and Osterley Park House were built by the heads of London banking families...