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Tipping the Velvet, Pride and Prejudice with “naughty bits”

Just a quick word of warning.

I will be writing about homosexual themes in this post.

If it’s not something that you are comfortable with, you should give it a miss.

Although I am straight, I wholeheartedly support gay rights and anyone who leaves homophobic comments will literally feel my wrath.

So, keep it clean and don’t be mean!


Every time I researched more costume dramas that would be in the vein of North and South or Pride and Prejudice, I’d come across Tipping the Velvet.

That’s not surprising seeing that the script for  P&P and Tipping were written by the same screenwriter Andrew Davis, although he described the latter as P&P with naughty bits.

It ended up on my shortlist as a Benedict Cumberbatch project and I finally watched it during the summer.

Word of warning, Ben is in it for just a few minutes and he plays a misogynistic so-and-so who tries to bully his way into his girlfriends pants, so if he’s the only reason you want to watch this series, you’re going to be disappointed…

Anyway, I’m not sure what I thought this story was about, but it certainly was unexpected.


The 2002 BBC mini series is based on a novel by the same title written by Sarah Waters.

Had I know the slang meaning of the expression “tipping the velvet” I would have been tipped off regarding the plot (if you’re curious click here).


Nan (Rachael Stirling), an 18-year-old oyster girl leads a seemingly ordinary life until she sees Kitty Butler (Rosie Kennedy Keeley Hawes), a male impersonator and performer, serenading woman on stage.

When Nan moves to London to become Kitty’s dresser, their friendship evolves into love and they develop a passionate physical relationship.

Nan joins Kitty on stage and they both achieve success as a duo act of male impersonators.

Life seems perfect for the two women.


Unfortunately, like with many love stories, betrayal follows and Nan finds herself alone, destitute and struggling to make ends meet.

Although Tipping the Velvet describes a lesbian relationship, the concept of love leaving you devastated and heartbroken is universal.

The themes that appear in this story can be disturbing and yet the writers and producers manage to install a healthy dose of humour to make even the most bleak or absurd circumstances watchable.


In many ways this is a story of self-discovery, a picaresque plot which describes the lower-class protagonist struggling in an unfamiliar urban setting,  experiencing adventures that they can only survive (semi) unscathed from with the help of their wit.

It’s also a bildungsroman story, a cautionary tale about coming-of-age and the important lessons the protagonist learns along the way.

You can watch the series (three episodes) on YT with Spanish subtitles:

After you’ve watched all the episodes, I recommend you check out the French and Saunders treatment of the series.

This clip featured possibly the most creative lesbian sex scene ever 😉

I haven’t read Tipping the Velvet, but it got me interested in other Sarah Waters stories.

There are other books that have been turned into movies and TV mini-series, like Affinity, or Fingersmith, which I haven’t finished watching yet.

I hope you enjoy today’s recommendation.

About Agzy The Ripper

Sew, Rip, Repeat... and love each moment of it! Join me as I embark on a myriad of sewing and crafting shenanigans.

14 responses »

  1. I’ll put this on my list of to watch. I think they might have use the premise of the book to do “Victor/Victoria” with Julie Andrews.

  2. I think I’ve seen this miniseries before, or at least part of it. :} I did simply love the French and Saunders “love scene”. Loved that show.

  3. It sounds interesting!! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Musze to wreszcie obejrzieć. Dzieki . ( uwielbiam French and Saunders:) )

    • Ich wersja jest na tyle zabawna że póżniej trudno jest na poważnie oglądać oryginał, stąd prośba by zostawić sobie te dwie wariatki na deser!

  5. I’m watching this pronto! First time I’m hearing of this though Sarah Waters as an author’s name sounds familiar. I’m adding her to my list of must reads.

    • There’s something really likable about how she constructs a story, plus as far as I could tell, she’s one of those big names with regards to lesbian literature and I think it takes courage to take on those themes knowing full well that it may eliminate a section of your potential readers.

  6. I watched this series when it was first broadcast a few years ago, but I had no idea that Benedict Cumberbatch was in it! It also features Jodhi May, and did you know that Rachael Stirling is the daughter of Diana Rigg?

    • OMG, had no idea the actress who played Nan was Rigg’s daughter but now it seems so very obvious. She’s a dead ringer for Diana! Ben’s part is very much a “blink and you’ll miss him” or “man, I wish I had blinked when he was on screen”, but then he was so young when that was shot.

  7. I watched this awhile back on BBC iPlayer – just browsed through the costume drama section and gave it a go. I don’t always enjoy Keeley Hawes’ performances, but I thought Rachael Stirling was very good. Anna Chancellor is always a treat to watch.

    • Anna Chancellor’s character is quite controversial, but she pulls it off. Let’s just say when I watch P&P I’m waiting for the moment when she’ll be pulling out a certain sex toy to scare poor Lizzy Bennet 😉 I jest, I think that would have been a bit of a stretch for poor Austen.

  8. I read Fingersmith when it came out and didn’t esp like it but thought, aha, this is going to be an author to watch. Glad she’s done so well with these adaptations.


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