Magazine article The Spectator

Jane's Sex Problem

Magazine article The Spectator

Jane's Sex Problem

Article excerpt

I'm always on the lookout for writers who've had well-paid, fun, fulfilled lives but I hardly ever find them. Jane Austen, for example. You'd think that the very least God would have given her in return for Emma and Pride and Prejudice would have been a single man in possession of a good fortune, a long, happy marriage and lots of lovely kiddies.

But no, God really hates writers, preferring to smile on Dan Brown. If you're Jane Austen, the deal is you get a pretty rubbish life as an impoverished spinster, but the moment you're dead everyone thinks you're great, and goes on remaking films of your novels and slushy drama-docs with pretty girls in bonnets well into the 21st century.

'Thanks, God, ' she's no doubt thinking sourly as she looks down from her cloud. 'But I think I'd have preferred the life rather than the posterity.'

Miss Austen Regrets (BBC1, Sunday) was writer Gwyneth Hughes's attempt to make sense of this using some of the letters Austen wrote to her niece Fanny. The most exciting bit was in the first 30 seconds, when a man with a nice house proposed to Jane and she said, 'Yes.' Next morning, she was shown leaving in a carriage having changed her mind. And that was it really. No amount of bonnetry, agreeable gardens (a particularly impressive starry-shaped maze, I thought) and all-star (Hugh Bonneville, Olivia Williams, etc. ) period acting could disguise the awkward fact that Jane never did get her Darcy and didn't have sex. This no doubt made for great literary inspiration but not watchable TV.

The Apprentice (BBC1, Wednesday) is on its best run ever. 'Sir Alan' has really got into his stride, now, as the bastard in the boardroom, his sidekicks Margaret and Nick have perfected their expressions of aghast disdain at the candidates' greed, mendacity, incompetence and double-dealing, and the candidates themselves are plumbing new depths of unutterable revoltingness.

Raef (the one who swans round in his cravats and dressing-gown like a maharaja's son at Eton in the 1930s) ought surely to win because he's capable and charming. In the meantime, though, 'Sir Alan' appears to have developed a new sacking policy: whatever the circumstances keep the evil scheming bitch and the slimy toerag because the viewers need someone to hate.

Those of us who still thought the show was about finding the best candidate for some 100K work experience in Sugar's business were brutally disabused in episode four, when 'Sir Alan' wantonly fired the decent, likeable, efficient ex-military man Simon Smith. …

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