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The above depiction of Jane Austen has already sent shudders down the corsets of her fans worldwide, for this little-known side to the early 19th-century author is the subject of a new BBC costume drama, Miss Austen Regrets.But the facts about the author's life are in short supply as Austen (playedby Olivia Williams in the film) never wrote a memoir, never sat for an interview and never recorded whether she herself had felt the joys and disappointments of the love about which she writes.
But Hughes says: 'Although it seems as if the world's foremost writer of love stories was writing out of apparently no experience, when you look closely, you realise she did have experience - not a bodice-ripping, sexual experience, as I'm sure she died a virgin, but a clear emotional experience of at least three men.' In an era when, had Jane married and had children, she would never have had time for her writing, she says: 'Thank goodness she didn't get married or have kids.The characters and incidents in the film - exquisitely shot at Hall Barn, Buckinghamshire, where Sense And Sensibility, Gosford Park and Chariots Of Fire were also made - are drawn from the correspondence that does survive between Jane and Cassandra, and Jane and her niece Fanny Knight.'People who think of Jane Austen as a little country mouse who was reserved around men will be shocked,' reveals Gwyneth Hughes, who wrote the script after painstakingly scouring Austen's letters for revealing new insights into the author's life. In fact, Jane was described by her contemporary, writer Mary Russell Mitford, as the 'prettiest, silliest, most affected husband-hunting butterfly ever'.' She certainly never seemed to find her own Mr Darcy and therein lies the crux of the plot of Miss Austen Regrets, where Jane jokes: 'I am she that loved and lost', and says to Fanny: 'My darling girl, this is the real world - the only way to get a man like Mr Darcy is to make him up.' She sees her novels as beloved children and the decision not to wed as vital to her giving birth to them.The object of her desire was the 20-year-old Dr Charles Haden (played by up-and-coming actor Jack Huston, who starred in Factory Girl).'It's interesting that in her novels, Emma and Persuasion, there's an older woman who marries very happily in middle-age and it comes out of the blue.