ITV’s Sanditon has come under fire for a racy and over-dramatised telling of Jane Austen’s unfinished story. But is the criticism warranted? And how much of the novel did Jane write?
It’s safe to say that ITV’s Sanditon has divided the opinion of Jane Austen devotees since first launching on August 25th.
The problem stems from the fact that the original Jane Austen novel was left unfinished when the author died in 1817. Since then, several adaptations of the story continued her work, each of which moving the storyline in different directions.
ITV’s adaptation, written by Andrew Davies of the Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility TV series, has come under criticism for bowing to the modern day pressure of adding elements of raciness and over dramatisation.
Fortunately, HITC Culture enlisted the help of Sanditon playwright Chris Brindle to help explain that despite the sometimes gratuitous nudity and sex scenes, ITV’s Sanditon adaptation is just as faithful as any other, in its own way.
Debunking the criticisms of ITV’s Sanditon
“Would Jane have had a fainting fit over bare bottoms and hand-jobs? Would she object where the show loses historical accuracy? Would she object to my pop musical?” asks Sanditon playwright and devotee Chris Brindle.
“I think not,” he continues.
“When dying and in great pain, Jane wrote the foundations of a satirical novel that she intended would encourage other people to write.”
Chris is of the belief that a lot of criticism aimed at ITV’s Sanditon remains unwarranted, as Jane Austen’s intention for the unfinished novel was to inspire different tellings of the story.
It just so happens that ITV and Andrew Davies have tip-toed down a route aimed at pleasing a modern television audience – and what more could you expect from a prime time series.
What were Jane Austen’s original intentions for Sanditon?
Chris explains that when Austen left her version of Sanditon unfinished:
“She was thinking particularly of her niece Anna Lefroy who could write dialogue but had no idea of a plot that could bring a novel to a satisfactory conclusion.”
Anna was Jane’s first fan, according to Chris, and lived within walking distance from Jane in the months before her death in 1817.
“When Jane died, the unfinished manuscripts, including Sanditon, were sent to the relations who were best placed to secure Austen’s literary legacy.”
Anna became the recipient of the unfinished Sanditon manuscript. However, while Anna wrote an interesting continuation, she failed to finish the novel herself, which is the story that Chris tells in his 2014 documentary.
As a result, a number of other Sanditon continuations have been completed over the years, each as contrasting as the last.
Anna Lefroy as painted by R.H.C. Ubsdell (1812-1887), great great great grandfather of Chris Brindle
Other versions of Sanditon
The number of notable Sanditon adaptations reaches double figures, with Chris Brindle responsible for not only a play but a musical and documentary as well.
“Andrew Davies [the screenwriter for ITV’s Sanditon] and I differ in our approaches to the source materila. In both the play and the musical I retain as much of the original material as possible.”
“Andrew, in contrast, takes the barest outlines of the characters and the situation and moves on quickly from there, making a TV production inspired by Jane Austen’s Sanditon, rather than a production that is Jane Austen’s Sanditon.”
Brindle concludes that while some Jane Austen fans have been quite critical, he believes we all want to know what happens next.
It’s clear that ITV’s Sanditon it not pleasing everyone but the love of Jane Austen and her story are the driving force in keeping people hooked to the TV screen to see just how ITV’s adaptation proceeds and concludes.
For those interested in Chris Grindle’s work surrounding Sanditon, more information is available at www.sanditon.info