Let’s Hop in the TARDIS + My Special Project

Let’s Hop in the TARDIS + My Special Project

This was meant to be entirely another post, but I got inspired, and so long as I manage to do as promised on social media, and clue you all in as to what my special project is by the end, I’ll have accomplished what I needed to!

I like to counterbalance my love of the Regency with a nice dose of science fiction, and my favorite dose is Doctor Who (which, if I must say, SHOULD go to the Regency at some point…certainly the BBC has enough spare costumes lying around!). The episode that sets up this post is the one featuring Vincent Van Gogh. SPOILER ALERT…

At the end of the episode, the Doctor and his companion at the time, Amy Pond, (spoiler AND tissue warning!) take Van Gogh to the Musée d’Orsay to see his work:

Total sobfest, amiright? I’m not even a huge Van Gogh fan and this makes me cry every time I see it. The notion of such an artist being able to see the impact of his work posthumously is just wonderfully poignant.

So what was it that reminded me of this lately? Well, here in the United States, we just celebrated the anniversary of our independence over the British. And in our particularly incongruous American manner, we particularly like to celebrate this holiday with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” a song written to celebrate the Russians turning out Napoleon in 1812. Why do we do this? Simply put, because it has cannons, and we cannot resist a song with cannons.

And for some reason this year, I started thinking, what if I had my own TARDIS (the time machine in Doctor Who), and could transport Mr. Tchaikovsky to the National Mall in Washington, DC, to listen to the National Symphony Orchestra, and watch the fireworks? I would, I presume, introduce Mr. Tchaikovsky to such modern contrivances as backpack chairs and food trucks while we waited on the National Mall for the start of the Fourth of July show, and then he would be required to wait through the buildup to the grand finale, which would, of course, be his song:

Somehow, I imagine Mr. Tchaikovsky as unimpressed by all of this:

Tchaikovsky: The timing is off, on the cannons.

Sophie: Yeah, sorry about that. But look at the spectacle surrounding your song!

Tchaikovsky: I am not impressed.

Sophie: Really, you should be. I mean, our country has a guy, John Philip Sousa, who pretty much devoted his entire repertoire to patriotic marches. And we still choose your song for the finale of our Independence Day.

Tchaikovsky: I have heard of this Philip Sousa person, but I have not heard his work. I would like to hear him, before you return me to my time.

Sophie: Sounds good. Maybe we’ll stop off at Glenn Miller before we get there, too.

While Tchaikovsky was by no means an unmitigated success, somehow my mind has continued on to consider what it would be like if I utilised my theoretical time machine with other historical figures. And thus, considering Tchaikovsky as the first, here are, in a somewhat logical order, ten more historical figures I would like to bring to other times and/or places, with my TARDIS:

2. Charlotte Brontë

Let’s start first with someone guaranteed to make me, at least, feel satisfied. Ms. Brontë would be brought into the future for a viewing of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries alongside Andrew Davies. When finally it is done, she would be thoroughly questioned as to how Mr. Davies could see the sex between the lines, and she could not, and there would be no answers forthcoming from Ms. Brontë. At the end, I presume she would ask if she could meet Colin Firth before returning to the Victorian age. I might be nice and let her watch a rendition of Jane Eyre or two before returning her, as well.

3. Antonio Vivaldi

So the whole Charlotte Brontë thing got way more awkward than I would have anticipated, what with the whole calling her out on saying Jane Austen had no passion when in truth she did, for those willing to see it. As a little breather, it would be nice to take Vivaldi on a tour of various performances of his masterpiece, “The Four Seasons,” to see how it’s held up in the modern era. We’d certainly drop in on one of Anne Akiko Meyers’a performances, but generally I’d want Vivaldi to understand how beloved and generally accessible his work remained to modern listeners:

Of course, someone would make that old joke, “if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it,” because somebody ALWAYS makes that joke, and I’d have to explain it to him. Maybe before I took him back to his time, I’d pull up a variety of YouTube videos for him to see all the various other ways his masterpiece has been used, including in automobile advertisements.

4. JMW Turner (no relation, although I wish!)

There is only one artist in this world who could occupy such a place in history and yet be so far head of the impressionist/abstract movements that his work can be considered modern art. And thus, there is nothing else I could do but to take Mr. Turner to the Tate Britain, to see how his bequest of his work to the nation has turned out, and then get on a Tate to Tate boat with him and see that he is the only artist to achieve, due to his preternatural ability when it came to abstract painting, a placement within both Tates. He would see, I think, that his ridiculed, abstract late works were in fact far, far, ahead of their time, which is why he is the only artist that I know of, to hang at both Tates.

5. Abraham Lincoln

I would love for Lincoln to have a chance to see his own memorial. And perhaps at that memorial, to attend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, which showed the progress and yet the unfinished legacy of what Lincoln had begun. We would, I suppose, also have the opportunity to attend a play at the still-functioning Ford’s Theater, but somehow I think that should be avoided (spoilers, as they would say on Doctor Who).

6. George Frideric Handel

Handel, I think, I would take on a tour through time. We’d stop at Queen Victoria’s and Queen Elizabeth II’s coronations, so he could hear that “Zadok the Priest” continues to be performed at British coronations.

Then we’d come on into the modern era, and have a tour of his house, which is still open to the public. He’d probably get busted for trying to play one of the instruments and be like, “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” To diffuse the situation I’d take him to a couple of the 6 zillion performances of his “Messiah” that are done around Christmastime.

7. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

Possibly separately. I am ill-equipped to play marriage counselor to anyone, much less those two, and I feel like that’s what it would devolve into. And I’d like to keep my head.

But they’d both definitely be going forward to see Elizabeth I in action. Anne Boleyn I think I’d like to take forward just after she’d been condemned to death, so she could know that against all possible odds her daughter becomes queen, and such a queen! For Henry I’d probably pick a time when he is least likely to cut off my head for showing him that it wasn’t his son who became the great ruler.

8. Beau Brummel

After the Henry/Anne thing, I think I’d like to go with one that’s more fun, and somehow I think it would be totally fun to hang out with Brummel for a day in modern London. We’d go shopping in St. James’s, after he got over being scandalized that as a woman, I’m allowed to go shopping there now. Some of the shops are ones he would have known from his day, but I’d be more curious about what he thinks about being fitted for a modern suit on Saville Row.

We’d finish up with a late lunch in one of the old taverns around St. Michael’s alley in the city, since I don’t think he’d be recognized at White’s, anymore! Hopefully at no point would he hear a song by the Beau Brummels on the radio, because I’m not sure how I’d explain that.

9. Admiral Lord Nelson

We’d of course have to start off with a walk around Trafalgar Square. Nelson would be kind of distinctive, even outside of naval uniform, so I’d have to work out some sort of disguise. Then we’d head down to Waterloo Station to take a train down to Portsmouth. Unfortunately, he’d probably ask what “Waterloo” was, and I’d have to be like, “oh, nothing…don’t worry about it…just some little battle, not as big as Trafalgar.” Fortunately once we got to Portsmouth and he got to see HMS Victory, preserved as a museum, I expect he’d be distracted. As this sort of is his equivalent of Ford’s Theatre, however, I’d probably have to work out how to avoid spoilers here, too.

10. Jane Austen

Well of course you knew who would round out this list! I think out of everyone on it, Austen is the one I most think about when I wonder what it would be like, if she could understand just even an inkling of her legacy, of how very beloved her works are today. I imagine there would be incognito trips to both JASNA and Baths’ Jane Austen Festival. Perhaps we’d watch the miniseries, too. There’d be a trip to Lyme Regis, certainly, and I’d mostly let her enjoy the place she so clearly loved, although I’d probably quiz her about what steps were really the ones Louisa Musgrove fell from, on the Cobb.

And then, because I’ve probably already scrambled British and therefore probably world history with the whole Henry VIII thing, I might as well take her in for modern medical treatment, right?

Sigh. It’s my favorite fantasy, out of all of these fantasies. But unfortunately, this is not something any of us can do for Jane Austen. And that brings me to my special project.

Book resting on foam wedges, and laptop
First edition of Pride and Prejudice, and my laptop


What I did realize I could do for Jane Austen, on the 200th anniversary of her death, is to give her back her “own darling Child.” Because something I’ve become increasingly aware of, is that we have been losing Pride and Prejudice. OCR/scanned and typed digital copies make the book more accessible, but they have eroded the book. Grammar, spelling, punctuation and even outright words have shifted from what was published in 1813. Consider this example:

An online version:

“I knew,” said he, “that what I wrote must give you pain; but it was necessary. I hope you have destroyed the letter. There was one part, especially the opening of it, which I should dread your having the power of reading again. I can remember some expressions which might justly make you hate me.”

As published by Egerton in 1813:

“I knew,” said he, “that what I wrote must give you pain, but it was necessary. I hope you have destroyed the letter. There was one part especially, the opening of it, which I should dread your having the power of reading again. I can remember some expressions which might justly make you hate me.”

It is subtle, but these things add up over time, and they take the novel farther from what Austen intended, lessening the experience for readers. And so, over the last several months, I have been undertaking the “restoration” of Pride and Prejudice. This has involved a lot of quality time going line-by-line through scans of the 1813 Egerton first edition, and even, as shown in the picture, a visit to Goucher College to work with the real live thing. The purpose of this is to put out a quality digital copy of Pride and Prejudice, something I feel has been long missing, and to make it free on every distribution channel that will allow it, and the minimum price on those that will not.

There will be much more on this in my next post, as by then I hope to have the book out and available for download, but for now, you can head over to Just Jane 1813, and provide your vote on the cover for the new ebook.

Before you go vote, though, let me know in the comments who you would go time traveling with, if you had your own time machine!

Pride and Prejudice cover options




22 Responses to Let’s Hop in the TARDIS + My Special Project

  1. That Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor” was so well received here in the UK. It’s one of my favourites from Matt Smith’s time as the incumbent of the TARDIS. One of the things I was hoping for during Peter Capaldi’s incarnation was for his irascible Scottish Doctor to meet our Jane Austen. Indeed, I had very high hopes when I saw a pre-broadcast photo (of the recently ended series) in one of ourTV listing magazines, in which the actress playing Bill Potts (his current travelling companion) had a copy of Northanger Abbey in her hand. Sadly, I now think that was just a clue to the episode set during the last great Frost Fair on the River Thames. The series finished last Saturday and Peter Capaldi’s tenure of the TARDIS comes to a close at Christmas, so it doesn’t look as though it’s going to happen for his Doctor. Maybe it will one day, but for an as yet unkown a future incarnation. After all, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor met Charles Dickens and David Tennant’s met Shakespeare.

    Thanks for all of the hard work you’re putting in on this current project, Sophie. I’d noticed occasional differences in punctuation etc in the various copies/editions of P&P that I own and it can indeed give a different meaning to a phrase or sentence. I’ll be popping in to Claudine’s blog over the weekend to look at the various covers you’re considering.

    As to who I’d travel in time with? It’d have to be The Doctor himself. It wouldn’t always be safe (rarely is, in fact) but would always be fascinating, as the TARDIS (a sort of sentient technology) doesn’t necessarily take him where he wants to go, but always where he needs to go.

    • I still haven’t seen the latest season but this blog post is really making me want to start watching it now. I like to save them up and binge watch them! I feel like just when I get pretty well adjusted to a new doctor, then it’s time for them to switch again…but it sounds like the show must be grueling for them to film, so I guess I can understand that no one wants to do more than a few seasons. I would LOVE for them to meet Jane Austen. There was that whole Agatha Christie episode back during Tennant’s time, too, so I feel like they’re maybe deliberately skipping over her. Or perhaps they know how sensitive we Janeites will be if we don’t like the portrayal! I would settle for one set during the Regency — I feel like that’s sort of been deliberately skipped, too, and that SHOULD be one of the easier ones to film given how often the BBC does period dramas and how many locations they’ve already scouted.

      Time traveling with the Doctor himself is a great choice! It would be crazy, but I think it would also be a grand adventure!

      Thanks for your comment, Anji, and as for putting in the hard work on the current project, it’s definitely felt worthwhile. Definitely for what I’m learning as a writer in studying it this closely, but mostly I’m just excited to be able to give this back to readers in this form.

  2. What an excellent project! Thanks for taking on what must be incredibly detailed and tedious work.

    I’d totally go traveling with Jane and Charlotte, although I might be kinder to Charlotte. Persuasion and Villette are tied in a dead heat as my favorite books. I’m a historian, and so many past figures I’d love to go traveling with. But if I had to pick one, in the spirit of the endurance of that person’s contrition? [pause of several minutes] I can’t even pick! Good thing the Tardis is multiuse.

    • Thank you, Elizabeth! There’s definitely a tedious aspect about it, but I also feel like I’ve gotten a huge education as a writer to study her work in that degree of detail. And it feels very worthwhile to be doing.

      I think Jane and Charlotte would definitely be great ones to travel with. Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel — I haven’t read Villette, although I did actually like Jane Eyre. It’s possible I would have liked it more had I not been prejudiced over her comments about Austen, haha.

      And I definitely agree it’s a good thing the Tardis is multiuse. Picking one person or even one era of history would be very tough!

  3. Sophie,

    What a wonderful idea,gifting Jane and indeed her numerous fans ‘her darling child’,P&P as she worded it.?

    Never thought about the fact that it could have changed so much over time,but as you stated,an extra or missing word and comma can alter the whole meaning of the sentence and change our perceptions of it.

    Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Jane could come back for just a little while and see us all reading,loving,talking about and indeed recommending her books to a whole new generation!!

    I hope,wherever she is,that she appreciates how much we love her sardonic wit,her humorous turn of phrase, her beguiling and enthralling depiction of much loved and (some) loathed characters!!!

    Where would we all be in a world devoid of one of literature’s greatest romances, forever immortalised in Darcy and Elizabeth,three dimensional characters devised,developed and penned by her good self!

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post! I loved it! ?

    • Thanks for your comment, Mary! I actually started studying it closely when I read a line that included Mrs. Long’s daughters in one version, and I was like, wait, what? I talk about it more in the forward to the work, but yes, when I started studying it I realized a lot of the copies out there have eroded significantly from the original, and unfortunately those are the copies that are most accessible to readers.

      And yes, I do wish so very much that Jane could come back just for a little while and see just how much love her works have garnered. Hopefully wherever she is, she can sense if not see this.

  4. This is such a wonderful project and I am so glad you are undertaking to do this. If I had a time machine I would take my grandfather back to meet his grandmother. He never knew her and has always wondered about her life.

    • Thank you, darcybennett! I’m so excited to be close to finally sharing it with readers. 🙂

      I love how many people are choosing family for this. I think giving your grandfather the chance to meet his grandmother sounds amazing for both of you.

  5. I enjoy Dr. Who but have only seen spotty episodes over the whole of the series so this one was new and definitely a tear jerker. If I had a time machine, I would take a very long trip with many stops because I would like the true answers as to who my father’s ancestors are and where in England we originated. I would also like to visit France in the 1890s to hear Debussy perform his works on piano and see Claude Monet’s works coming from his very own garden. I would be afraid to have any real interaction with historical figures. I would be much too tempted to alter history in some vital way. LOL

    • I’m with you, Stephanie! I think I would want to have a very long tour through history and I would have a very tough time avoiding the temptation to alter it. My favorite Doctor Who episodes are often the ones where they go back in time…I wish the did that even more often. And I think you’ve got a great set of stops lined up so far!

  6. What an absolutely amazing post! The Van Gogh scene in Dr. Who made me cry, and the stirring music of Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and Handel was wonderful to listen to…all have endured as have each of your time travellers. I had to laugh about your comments with Charlotte Bronte, actually each brought a chuckle and a smile. And for you to take on this side project, I commend you and I am sure Jane would too. I’m still trying to decide which picture would be the most appropriate as they all beautifully relate. I’m just trying to think which would be the most fitting for the time period.

    As for who I would like to time travel with that you haven’t already taken with you…my mother…she died when I was 22 months old and I would love to know the adventures, dreams and wishes she had.

    • Thank you so much Carole, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! And I really appreciate the thought you’re putting into the cover. It’s definitely a tough decision — that’s why I needed reader input. I couldn’t make the choice myself.

      And that is so poignant, the idea of you traveling with your mother. I think she would have liked that opportunity, too, to have a chance to know the adult you.

  7. I have never seen the show Dr. Who… and didn’t know who [no pun intended] he was, until the TV program ‘The Big Bang Theory’ referenced him and even had a Tardis on their show. After viewing your awesome video lineup… I am moved beyond words. I loved every selection on your top 10 list and your reasoning for your choice… my goodness… excellent list.

    I suppose, if I needed to choose, I would like to visit with and talk to William Wallace [Scottish relation] and ask what really happened. There are so many conflicting accounts of his life and the history of the Scottish rebellion. I’d like to hear his account. However, I don’t think it would be advisable to bring him forward in time. He is well known for his temper and I don’t think I would be able to manage him, not even with a platoon of England’s finest. Better to be on the safe side. Just saying.

    • Aww, thank you, J. W., so glad to hear you enjoyed the post!

      And how amazing that you are related to William Wallace. I think that would be absolutely fascinating to talk to him and get the real story. And yes, perhaps he’s one that would be best to leave in his own time!

  8. Love Doctor Who. The Van Gogh clip just made me cry again too. If I had my own Tardis, it would be hard to know where to start, but in the more recent past, I think I’d like to travel back to see CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien in an Inklings meeting. I wonder what Tolkien would think about how they’ve turned part of New Zealand into Middle Earth? And Lewis’ writings are still some of my favorites. Not too many authors can write a story that is appropriate for and enjoyed by a fifth grader…and then still enjoyed and appreciated by a forty-something-year-old! But he did it.

    So many opportunities…but it would be hard to not mess with the Temporal Prime Directive. Sorry, I’m somewhat of a Trekkie, thanks to my husband.

    Best wishes to you on your project.

    • Oh I think Lewis and Tolkien would be wonderful to visit and see in “action”!

      I’ll admit that I’m not much of a Trekkie so I don’t know what that is. I think I like the Doctor Who “wibbly wobbly” approach to things, though…unless of course it’s a fixed point in time. 😉

      • Yeah, I wouldn’t know the Temporal Prime Directive either if it weren’t for watching with my husband. It pretty much says they can’t mess with the timeline. Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey…such a great Doctor thing to say. 🙂

  9. This is a wonderful idea, and so needed! I’ve noticed the degradation as well, among other books, too. Thank you for the undertaking.

    As for time travel, that one would require a lot of thought, but I have to admit one trip would be back to meet my grandparents when they were young.

    I love that episode of Dr Who 🙂

    • Yeah, I think the downside of freely available digital scans has been the reduction in quality. I can’t restore them all, but it really bothered me that this was how people were now reading Pride and Prejudice.

      I love the idea of time traveling to meet your grandparents! I would love to do that, too!

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