Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

The League of Austen’s Extraordinary Gentlemen

on November 20, 2010

This is my sixth and final non-Austen title for the challenge.  Unlike all the other choices, The League of Austen’s Extraordinary Gentlemen (link is to part 7 as from there all the 6 other parts can be reached) is not in book form but appeared on a blog site called AustenBlog as a seven-part metafic series between January and April of this year, and so comes under the “any other thing you can think of” format category on the challenge page!

Clearly, this idea is based on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the comic book series by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, which tells of characters from various classic novels who are recruited by British Intelligence to fight against fictional villains.  In this version, written by Mags, male characters from all of Austen’s novels unite in a similar fashion to champion their beloved Miss Austen, defending those same novels from monsters who have (some would say incongruously and even unacceptably!) cropped up recently in rewrites and pastiches!  In part one, the Gentlemen of the Navy, led by Captain Wentworth, fight a giant squid who threatens to endanger the Dashwood family in their cottage near the coast.  In part two, Colonel Brandon leads a team of Gentlemen from the Armed Forces (Tilney, Fitzwilliam, Whickham and the “Blankshire” Militia) against invading Zombies.  In part three Mr Knightley leads the Gentlemen of the Hunt (i.e. farmers and gentleman farmers) against werewolves and part four (my favourite) sees the Gentlemen of the Cloth hunt down vampires – sorry, I mean vampyres, of course!  I enjoyed that part the most, not only because it features Henry Tilney as the leader of the group, but because it really slates Edmund Bertram, whom I’ve never liked!  The fifth part involves the leader of the group (who do you think?) complaining that since the “wet shirt incident” he’s being inserted into books willy-nilly in order to make them sell, as well as being misrepresented and made to look undignified in his morals and behaviour, leading to serious problems from his “legions of fangirls”.  Support comes from an unexpected source and this is continued in the following part, in which the operation hits a problem and the massed forces of the league must descend on the headquarters of the fangirls.  In the final part the continuing problems of the assault on Miss Austen’s work by the forces  of popular cultures are addressed in a different way by the ladies.

This is an excellently observed piece.  As usual, the more of Austen you have read and the better you know it, the more you are likely to get out of it, but a less intimate knowledge will not prevent you from enjoying it all the same. I get the impression Mags knows her subjects well and has done a really convincing and highly entertaining job of uniting them all in this story (her obvious fondness for Mr Tilney doesn’t harm her place in my esteem, either!).  It doesn’t really matter whether or not you’re opposed to the newer “versions” of the novels or wholly in support of them, there will still be something for you in this series.  And if you enjoy it, can I also recommend another series by Mags: The Very Secret Diary of Henry Tilney (who else?! – again, this link is to the final part, from where you can jump to all of the others), her wonderful response to the ITV dramatisation of Northanger Abbey from 2007.

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