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The fashionable alteration of existing parks or gardens - improvement, as it was called - is the basis for two important espisodes in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park: the visit to Sotherton and the di...scussion of Thornton Lacy. But apart from those, the word occurs so often and ideas from landscape gardening are so frequently used as metaphors that 'improvement' could be taken as a major device in the book. This programme examines what exactly improvement was in Jane Austen's time and suggests an interpretation for the novelist's moral use of it. The most famous landscape gardener of the time was Humpfrey Repton. In the novel, it is suggested that he be called in to revise the gardens at Sotherton. Repton's work is still to be seen in many estates throughout England and most of this film was made at Blaize Castle House near Bristol, which Repton improved in 1795. Repton combined the qualities of salesman and artist in his Red Books which he prepared for his most important clients. They were hand written descriptions of the work which was required to be done on any particular estate together with water-colour paintings of the grounds both before and after the improvements. Repton made these paintings even more effective by clever use of overlapping cut outs bylifting a flap you could see revealed the effect the new landscaping would create. In the programme we use the illustrations from the Red Books at Blaize Castle House and others from Repton's published books on the principles of landscape gardening. Illustrations of the earlier forms of formal garden come from seventeenth century engravings from the British Museum and film of parts of the gardens at Hampton Court. The programme is introduced by Cicely Havely, Lecturer in Literature at the Open University and the main argument on the use of improvement as a metaphor with moral force.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: A302, The nineteenth century novel and its legacy
Item code: A302; 01
First transmission date: 07-02-1973
Published: 1973
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:23:50
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Producer: Richard Callanan
Contributors: Cicely Palser Havely; John Hunt
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Blaize Castle House; Landscape gardens; Sotherton
Footage description: Cicely Havely introduces the programme. This will be given over to a study of 'improvement' in 'Mansfield Park', i.e. the ways in which Jane Austen highlights questions of moral improvement by using as metaphors issues concerning the improvement of the landscape of the park. Cicely Haveiy introduces John Dixon Hunt who in his discussion of the work of Humphrey Repton at Blaise Castle near Bristol, expands upon the conscious link in the 18th century upon landscaping and gardens as a reflection not only of taste but also of manners and morals. Shots of Blaise Castle are shown. John Dixon Hunt continues his consideration of Humphrey Repton over shots of Repton's plans for Blaise Castle. Film of Blaise Castle grounds, and drive from entrance gate. Quotations from Repton's description are read over. Hunt now expands his observations on landscape improvement to include observations on improvement in Mansfield Park. Fanny's attitude is considered. Hunt continues his consideration of landscape improvement as a theme of 'Mansfied Park'. Henry Crawford is assessed. Quotations from 'Mansfield Park' are read over. Hunt extends the idea of change or improvement as it appears in 'Mansfield Park' as a theme. He assesses other characters in the novel in terms of their attitude to change, Henry Crawford principally. Quotations from the visit to Sutherton in 'Mansfield Park' are read over. Hunt now turns to the 'improvement' or change that takes place in the characters during the novel, principally Fanny. Quotations from 'Mansfield Park' are read over. Hunt sums up the programme, and makes a few generalisations on the 19th century novel.
Master spool number: 6HT/70816
Production number: 00525_3010
Videofinder number: 2578
Available to public: no