Forgive me if I take this occasion to celebrate a few different Elizas than just Miss Bennet, for Thursday is Eliza Doolittle Day.My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which in turn is based on a beautiful myth recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Pygmalion is a sculptor who falls in love with his own creation. After praying to Venus to help him find a real woman as perfect as the statue, it comes to life, and they basically live happily ever after. Shaw’s version is tad bit more complex. Professor Henry Higgins, played by Rex Harrison in the movie, is a massive phonetics geek. There’s really no better way to put it. For fun he records accents, and it is when eavesdropping one rainy night outside of Covent Gardens that he meets Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower girl. Eliza is played by Audrey Hepburn in the film, magnificently, I believe, but it is not her voice during the songs – that’s a rather sad tale for both Audrey, Marni Nixon, who sang the numbers, and Julie Andrews, who originated the role on Broadway opposite Harrison. Anyway, Higgins makes a wager with his buddy that with six months of lessons, he can pass Eliza, “this guttersnipe,” off as “a duchess at an embassy ball.” I do not want to reveal the entire story just in case, dear reader, you have perchance never seen this remarkable film. If not, please do so! It’s far too good to miss. In the meantime, here’s the scene in which the 20th of May is codified for all time as ‘Liza Doolittle Day by an imaginary King Edward VII. It takes place early in Eliza’s lessons, and she has spent the last several days strapped to a machine that monitors her breathing while pronouncing the letter A over and over and over again, so she’s feeling rebellious. If you are using Chrome on a cellphone, be aware the video link might not appear. Try switching to the web version. Enjoy:
And now back to Austen.
you can read the post here), so I will not offer additional commentary at this time. Instead, for your delectation and in honor of the holiday, I will transcribe it here, spelling idiosyncrasies and all, from my well-loved Oxford World’s Classics edition of . For those unfamiliar with Austen’s juvenilia, be warned: young Jane had a keen sense of the absurd. She was also wickedly funny. The names Henry and Eliza are taken from her brother and cousin, who would someday marry. As you will see, the story is really Eliza’s. Henry’s part in it is rather short-lived.