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Archive for May, 2010


Film mother and daughter, walking and talking

Dear Friends and readers,

ON this Memorial Day Weekend in the US and Bank Holiday in the UK (and very hot it is today), yesterday afternoon Izzy and I went to see our third (at least) movie by Holofcener: Please Give. We’ve seen and enjoyed very much Lovely and Amazing, and Friends with Money.

Unlike Friends with Money, which centers on a group of women friends (a frequent trope for women’s movies — so too Sex and the City); but, like Lovely and Amazing, the center is a family group. Two family groups.

Our central heroine, Kate (Catherine Keener), buys old furniture and whatever is left in houses and apartments from “the children of dead people,” as she prosaically puts it, and sells this stuff for high prices as antiques.


Kate surprises the dead person’s daughter-in-law who can’t believe someone will pay $700 for “this junk.” No, says Kate, it’s worthy money (i.e., others will pay for it).

She works in this business with her husband, Alex (Oliver Pratt), who is played by an actor who looks like someone’s real husband after years of marriage:


Nonetheless, he has no problem finding another compliant woman . . . ;

and they have a probably commonly difficult teenager daughter, Cathy (I see played by the actress’s daughter, Elizabeth Keener): Cathy has a bad case of pimples on her face and is slightly overweight and filled with all the anxieties and hostilities of a teenage girl.

Next door to them lives a very old lady, 91, Andra (Ann Guilbert) who is weak, frail, feeble minded, totally tactless, stubbborn, not smart and hard to bear with. She is being taken care of (shopped for) by a granddaughter who has a kind good decent nature, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and her sister, another granddaughter, Marissa (Elise Ivy) who has not (not a nice nature, cold, and driving and ruthless).


Marisse obsessively spying on someone by pretending to look to buy overpriced shlock — it emerges Marisse’s boyfriend “left her” for the clerk in the store; ugly words are passed between them

Kate and Rebecca constitute the two nice and kind people of the film who do the right thing and do right by others. Rebecca does mammographies for a living and through this meets a young man who is maneuvred into asking her “out” by his grandmother, a kindly sort, tactful, there for a mammography and who alas has a lump of cancer in her breast. The young man is a good sort, Adam (Josh Pais — who played Mr Knightley in Clueless so this is type casting).

I think I’ve covered the characters. The plot or story has a design and by the end comes to a conclusion, but it’s so lifelife that it moves in a casual lapidary way. We endure among other things an adultery, a very bad facial (for poor Cathy), a death, a funeral, people taking over one another’s apartments, and we walk in the street (walking dogs). There is also a vexed birthday party where the old lady doesn’t like her presents and everyone behaves counterproductively.

Our Kate does give money to the homeless — there are jokes made of this because she often goofs and offers money to those who are not in fact homeless. Her daughter is mortified by her conduct. There are painful mother-daughter scenes. We learn early on casually that Rebecca and Marissa’s mother killed herself and are left to surmise why. Marisse refers casually to the way Andra treated their mother and we see an abyss of the type gothics are written about open before us. Suddenly we know why Marisse is bitter in part and why she is so insistent on telling the truth about Andra to Andra even if she’s 91.

So we do surmize: another mother-daughter pair is indirectly there all the while. A missing one. By the end the film is very moving (as was Friends with Money and Lovely and Amazing), partly because the things that happen do so in such a real and understated way, I began to cry helplessly: it’s when (I don’t want to tell the specific) something unexpected happens, a sudden moment of kindness and reaching out and gratitude and (here comes Austen in) esteem, just giving is shown between two people.


In the store together, lots of scenes of them sleeping in their bed, reading side-by-side

I didn’t get as bad as at the end of The Remains of the Day (where I cried uncontrollably for about 10 minutes), but when I mention how much trouble Merchant-Ivory-Jhbvala went to that picture in mise-en-scene, money, adaptations, film teams and say this is a movie James Schamus (partner to Ang Lee) calls a “no budget” one you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s the very unassuming nature of this film (including no fancy technological gimmicks in editing or montage) gets to the gut core of life’s experiences compellingly, persuasively.

It’s in your face from a woman’s point of view at moments. It opens with a series of women’s breasts thrust at you, over an dover, all sizes and types. It was off-putting because for real and shown that way women’s breasts (probably like men’s penises were you to photograph them this way) are very off-putting. So much meat. We do quickly surmize this is a close up of a series of mammographies as we see these poor women get their breasts squeezed. I loved the implicit satire on the focus on women’s breasts on our sex saturated culture as well as the implicit sympathy with women undergoing it. For the record, I dislike it very much and have to be pushed into it by my doctor — they seem to get me on a day I’m there for I never show for appointments made later.

This is our introduction to Rebecca and how she survives. How did she get into this business. A long story of happenstance. She, like Kate, emerges as the person in fact all turn to put their heads on at the end of the day. She and Adam go with their respective grandmothers to “see the leaves.” This consists of driving into New York State to a park and standing and staring at the beauty. Andra does not see it, but Adam, and Rebecca and his grandmother do. He’s her support, her one support.

We visit stores to buy jeans (hideously overpriced), a beauty parlor (as I would call it), apartments where someone has died. Kate has an idea of giving and wants to become a volunteer and she tries to join the staff of an old people’s home. But she is not “light” and “upbeat” enough in her stance or talk and is not wanted — does not pass her interview! And she tries to become a volunteer for Down’s Syndrome teenagers, but (wrongly or misguidedly ina way) feels so sorry for them watching them play basketball she has to leave. She begins to cry in a bathroom. We see two acts of kindness by these people. A boy playing basketball reminded me of my cousin, Johnny, now dead (at 42 of a car accident) who looked like him: Downs Syndrome people resemble one another. A girl comes over to the bathroom to ask if Kate needs help.

We see lots of acts of meanness you see, little ones and bigger ones and betrayals too. We learn these count — can drive people you know where. I like Holofcener’s understated language. Rebecca’s mother killed herself. Not commmitted suicide whch seems to me a pompous way of putting it nowadays. Jim and I saw a wonderful play about 2 old men sitting on a bench in an old men’s (veterans of WW2) home. A fourth they talk about during the play kills himself. Not commits suicide. Kills himself.

But the acts of kindness, of bonding, of even uplift (dare I say it) win out.


Marisse leaning on Rebecca at the end of the day, watching some godawful TV program

Don’t miss this one. There is so much horrible junk out there in the movies this weekend, so much drek and crap (Robin Hood), do yourself a favor as they would say in this film and support this one.

Yes it’s filmed in a couple of streets in NYC. Probably the cheapest Holofcener and her team could rent.

I’ve put Walking and Talking on my queue for Netflix now. It’s early Holofcener, produced by James Schamus in his early prime.

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Olivia Williams as Jane Austen, writing Emma (Miss Austen Regrets, Ch 3)

Dear friends and readers,

This is the second of two conference reports on the ASECS conference I attended this past spring. You have ahead of you brief records of a session on “The Eighteenth Century on Film,” and of the titles of the papers on some Jane Austen films I missed (!); a session on Fanny Burney and women’s literary history; the plenary lecture on race, and a dramatic reading of a farce the last session of the conference.

“The Eighteenth-Century on Film” panel occurred late Friday afternoon (5/19/10, 4:15 to 5:45 pm). The first paper, by Srividhya Swaminathan, was on Amazing Grace: “The African Slave Trade and the Cinematic Eye.”


Inspirational moments

Ms Swaminathan suggested everyone can see that the way the slave trade and 18thc culture are depicted in this film is celebratory, biographical and hagiographic: 2007 was seen as an anniversary of the act of 1807. What has been less noticed is how it shows progress on race as a function of Christian belief which urges reform on people. That the movie was conceived as a vehicle to launch a missionary effort is shown by the “official website” which reveals the movie was funded and distributed by an evangelical wing of the Christian party (so to speak).

There are many historical inaccuracies in the film; but what it does reach out to do is dramatize Wilberforce’s conversion experience. We get a history as a progress narrative enacted by privileged white (mostly — all but one) men.

The movie is careful not to disturb the viewers for real: there is no dramatization of the middle passage at sea; no one seen at real labor on the plantations, no one whipped or left to die. Romance images abound.

Simple equations are made: The Duke of Clarence who is pro-slavery is also a snob, so he is easy to recognize and there is an implication an uncommon type.

The realities were highly complicated and serious reform can be said to arise from many people working for abolition. What is important here though is that this movie was funded by an evangelical group who were pushing a glorification of Christianity (as saving us from slavery) and conversion experiences.

Religious groups in US society have long been exempt from taxes because it’s said they are not political. Nothing could be further from the truth (as we all know). Here though is a flagrant instance of how popular entertainment of a supposed middle brow or ‘high quality’ costume drama, complete with prestigious actors used to forward an agenda.

The second paper, by Peggy Schaller, was another talk on Patrick Leconte’s Ridicule: “Ridicule and Role-Play 18th century feminism in contemporary film. In 1996 Ridicule was nominated best film of the year; it has impressive stars, enticing costumes, witty dialogue, was a box office success.

Ms Schaller showed that three female stereotypes in the film dominate the film: a highly sexualized woman, powerful and first seen naked; a young innocent mademoiselle, and and women as workers (servants, housekeepers, in taverns).


A typical moment and costuming of a woman from the film


Greer Garson as delicate lady with muddy dress (1940 P&P)

The third paper, by Janet Aikins Yount, “Pride and Prejudice of 1940: Aldous Huxley’s Approach to Cinematic Adaptation,” was a filmic analysis of the imagery of repeating objects in the film (like chickens) and of its ethical inferences. She seemed to have immensely enjoyed its silliness as part of a Utopian escape/refuge perspective for moviegoers leading up to WW2.


The proposal scene with Laurence Olivier as Darcy (another of the many non-comic high romance moments in the film)

The two early Friday sessions I missed were entitled: “Adapting Austen: Theory and Practice.” The first was chaired by Byrcchan Carey and the papers were Rachel Brownstein’s “A Pride of Prejudices”; Nora Nachumi’s “Doing Mr Darcy: Sexing up the Adaptations;” and David Richter’s “Theorizing Adaptations of Austen: From John Dryden to Dudley Andrews.” The second was chaired by Katherine Ireland and the papers were Andrea Cabus, “New Spaces: Austen Adaptations as Popular Intrusions into Critical Dialogue;” Deborah Nestor, “Selling Aunt Jane, or When Does Interpretation Become Appropriation in Adapting Jane Austen;” and Eleanor Ty, “Postfeminist and Other Guilty Pleasures in Guy Andrews’s Lost in Austen.


I love its opening paean to escape (Jemima Rooper as Amanda Price diving into her book, from Lost in Austen)

Je suis très désolée that I missed these. I write out names and titles in order to enable myself to keep an eye out for any papers by these people which may turn up in periodicals. Maybe my next paper on a film study will be on Miss Austen Regrets which I’m falling in love with — because it is so serious and I can take it seriously (see still at the head of this blog). I still grieve because I missed a paper on the 1999 mini-seris Aristocrats which I have asked about repeatedly on listservs, but the person who gave the paper stubbornly will not share even his or her thesis.

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Juniper Hall, Germaine de Stael’s residence where Burney was welcomed and Burney met her beloved husband

I attended two Burney sessions. I’ll treat the second first: organized by the Burney society, the topic was fashion, and I admit I found myself uncomfortable with the acceptance of some of Burney’s cruel humor (the monkey scenes in Evelina) and also the materialism and performative point of view on life implicit in talking about fashions in Burney. The conservative and pro-establishment- and conventions point of view in Burney came so strongly, I felt this was a post-feminist Burney (on post-feminism see below and “This long morphing life”).

The first session was not billed a Burney one, but “The Contrary Marys: The Fictionalizing of Wollstonecraft” (3/18/10, 9:4–11:15 am) turned out to be four papers mostly on Burney’s parodies of Wollstonecraft in The Wanderer; or Female Difficulties. In Tara Ghoshal Wallace’s “Self and Text: Wollstonecraft in Burney’s The Wanderer, Ms Wallace showed that we have a continuum of women who find themselves at risk of being criminalized because of the social institutions and customs they are surrounded by. So even if Elinor Joddrell (the Wollstonecraft) burlesque is over the top, the other women fleeing appalling husbands, unable to make a living, persecuted, losing their very voices make the hysteria of Elinor understandable. Ms Wallace was strongly persuasive on how the other women characters in the novel are intensely abused so that we are in a nightmare world where women do not succeed in freeing themselves or supporting one another. They all inhabit separate silos of pain.

Jennifer Golightly asked “Where in The Wanderer is Wollstonecraft: Radicalism, Feminism, and Jacobinism in 1814,” and suggested we should read Elinor as another Emma Courtney (from Mary Hays’s epistolary novel), showing outspoken unconventional norms of behavior, and unconventional sexuality. She linked these to Harriet Freke (Edgeworth), Mary Crawford (Austen) and Adeline Mowbray (Amelia Opie). Elinor empathizes with Juliette who is the book’s quiet and successful feminist.

The title of Andrew McInnes’ paper shows it was overlong and complicated, “Wollstonecraft’s Empire: Misogyny and Miscenegenation in Edgeworth’s Belinda, Hamilton’s Memoirs of Modern Philosophers and Opie’s Adeline Mowbray.” He spoke it too fast; I gathered he was trying to show how Wollstonecraft’s way of seeing women’s lives haunts these novels. I could not get myself to sit and listen to the fourth paper because my own session was coming up and I became too anxious in mind.

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“Do you imagine in reading my books that I am drawing my portrait?
Patience: it’s only my model” (Sidonie Gabrielle Colette)


Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes (a detail), women’s baroque

The session called “Writing Women’s Literary History: Problems and Possibilities” (held Thursday, 3/18/10, 4:15 to 4:45 pm) was an exhilarating experience because so many people crowded into the room, all the speakers spoke with enthusiasm, and there was a lively question and answer discussion afterwards.

The chair was Jenny Batchelor who said she was troubled by the idea we are now in a post-feminist era, which seems to be a label to hide the reality that people are moving away from recovering women’s writing and overturning attitudes which disvalue and ignore it.

This then was a session on how to revive women’s literary history. Now we are being told (in the last decade) that women’s literary history is recovered, there is no need to rescue, and one can see since promotion and prestige come from studying men’s literary history and male texts, that “minor” women’s texts are again being forgotten, work is stopping, and we are told we are in a post feminist era.

This is not so at all. i don’t write explicitly feminist blogs on politics myself any more: but three minutes search turns up the huge disproportion of what is published by men as opposed to women, how much attention is paid to men’s causes. As to the politics of women’s lives, just yesterday I came across a news time where a woman high minister in Angola is trying to pass legislation to outlaw wife-beating. She knows it’s not enforceable, but it’s a start. Wife-beating is still common across the earth.

So this session was about ways to keep women’s literary history studies and a feminist progressive point of view going. It’s not easy because often you have to cross boundaries where lines are set according to male publications. Translation studies, crossing eras, and private papers are of enormous importance is recovering women, as well as huge compendiums of older history where women are simply named.

The women made suggestions on how we can continue to carve out areas where we find women’s books. Gillian Dow’s paper delighted me because she argued for what I so strongly believe in and wish I could do more of: she said that women’s novels crossed continually between the UK and Europe, and we need to unearth and study the networks of women responding to another across languages: e.g., Charlotte Lennox’s Female Quixote and her translation of Maintenon’s letters have French counterparts. We must look at the afterlife of texts: how they are edited and presented by later women. Julie Chandler Hayes argued for researching into vast compendiums for the names and histories of women writers and to study women as patrons and salonieres more.


Rosalba Carriera, detail from La Chaise, Venetian roccoco

Susan Carlile also looked at intersections between novels, especially the classic and famous ones by men and how women’s versions of these (say Sarah Fielding’s David Simple vis-a-vis her brother Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews) depart from imposed conventions. What did women write about Grandison or Clarissa (Sarah Fielding’s “Remarks”)? how translate Amelia (Riccoboni’s translation of Fielding). We must look through and past self-condemnations in books like History of the Penitents too. She quoted Susan Stave on how women had to conform to accepted modes, were barred from institutional education; we should look at anthologies like Poems by Eminent Ladies (1755). Look at their letters to one another, and also see them as colleagues of male writers.

Laura Engels spoke of women’s autobiography and how they present themselves as professionals; also of how we need to cross boundaries of centuries so we need to study Anna Jameson (a woman who began life as a governess, and boldly quit to write and when she made a mistake in marrying, managed to leave the man and eventually carved an existence out for herself as an independent travel writer and student of earlier literature). Anna Jameson belongs to 19th century studies but her studies are of 18th century women. If we go into the private papers behind the publications, we find treasure troves to rescue and recover.

I thought this an especially important point: Julia Kavanagh, a 19th century women writer is one of the first to write a history of women’s literature, and she writes about the 18th century. So you have to encompass both eras. (But this does not follow how people get jobs as a specialist in one era and I could see the limitations of some of the professed claims to try to do things differently. People affirmed the importance of periodization.) I also was so chuffed to see one of the women whose work I know and love (Jameson) turn up in this session.

Devoney Looser talked of how we should keep up a virulent scepticism that feminism has done its task; there is much left to be done. Her thing came out of her recent book: we need to study more older women or books written when they are older, their lives then. We have been over-valuing transgression, so to speak for itself too. We need less commitment to individual authors too. What about the vast body of anonymous work? We could and should look there.

The discussion afterwards was a bit demoralizing as it didn’t take long for someone to say, well we must not ignore men, someone else to worry about “being in a ghetto.” If the amount of people in the room were a sign of real interest rather than not having something better to go too, if these people were in a ghetto, it’s a hugely populated one.


Angelica Kauffman, Virgil at Brindisium, late 18th century neo-classicism

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The plenary lecture was given by Ruth Hill, a professor of Iberian studies and long-time student of 18th century American history. It occurred Saturday afternoon and was entitled “Race and the Atlantic Divide.” Her argument resembled that of Steve Olson in his Mapping Human History. Olson (who I read with my Advanced Composition on Natural Science and Tech students) demonstrates that biologically speaking we are across the earth so intermixed there are nowadays very few (he counts four) groups of people so separated from others that there distinct genomes produce a genuinely different look in someone. Now these distinct looks are a tiny part of each of our chromosomes.

Here is in a nutshell is Olson’s argument:

There is no genetic base for separating groups of people acros the earth as of different races; the salient features we pay attention to are tiny and not very important (texture of hair for example, color of eye). All the people on the earth have mitochondria which can be traced back to a single woman living about 150 to 200,000 years ago in Northeastern Africa.

We look different because of sequences of nucleotides on some of our chromosomes; these sequences are called haplotypes and peoples who have them are in the same haplogroups or races.

Race is shown to be a cultural concept, a construct used to shore up power and privilege. Everything is then done in education, bringing up children, and segregating groups of people to make them act differently as to manners and knowledge, clothes, language.

This was exactly Hill’s central point. She assumed that we would understand that race as a concept is a human invention, a cultural state of mind, and tried to show that before Darwin and supposed biological justifications of separating people into distinct groups, an acceptance of hybridity among individuals was assumed and accepted.

In a sense she was attacking the uses of science made by our society since the 19th century. She argued that folklore is less racist than more modern theories and the really rigid use of barriers emerged in the middle of the 19th century in the ferocious attempt to keep slavery going. She used the Spanish part of the US to show mixings of all sorts of peoples. She also spoke of an Atlantic divide and suggested that there was much more separation of peoples in Europe than the US (where we had so many native non-European asian featured people — Indians). Simply, there were lots of interracial couples.

Her mantra: color practices are social and not natural. In her formula, attitudes towards women by men are affected by their racial characteristics. Women were judged and evaluated first on the basis of how they conformed to different norms of female beauty, the European type feature being especially coveted. But if you look, you find mixed features repeatedly and people did realize and acknowledge this.

It also sounds liberal, decent, humane, but one problem in her talk was when she got down to documentary proof, she began to quote letters from Jefferson and she showed this man carefully distinguishing several generations of cross-race sexual births, and when one got to be an 1/8 black Jefferson really seemed nearly to accept the person as the equivalent of white. She also took heart in how Jefferson seemed to look at different races of human beings as so much animal husbandry.

It seemed to me these letters showed just as much intense racism as those who looked to large biological differences and didn’t worry themselves (so to speak) about degrees of mulato. She claims that Jefferson is taking hybridity seriously. Well, only when the person was not already a slave; if they were, then they were property. And would he have married a daughter of his to such a person. In the quoted letters he is also talking (in effect) theoretically about how many generation it takes before someone can pass for white.

How can one take heart from any of this? or argue that hybridity is an effective idea?

Also I wondered if Jefferson really saw the whites as equivalent to animals or only the blacks and mulatos. His talk about animal husbandry troubled me. I’d like to know if he allowed his friends to go to bed with black women slaves in his house as it is apparent Washington or one of these founding fathers (Madison?) and others did from printed copies letters I remember being shown

Further, when her speech was over, several of the questions (to my mind ironically) showed people really didn’t think of race as a cultural frame of mind at all. Further, some people appeared to be controlling their sense of offense at what had been shown. They needed to read Steve Olson. But even then her argument was not (to me) quite convincing.

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An engraving of Beggar’s Opera: contrasting it to Italian opera

The last event Jim and I attended was a dramatic reading and half-acting of George Colman’s “New Hay at the Old Market: an occasional drama” (1795). The usual people took large roles: John Richetti had two large parts, Lisa Zunshine, Christopher Mounsey. It was fun to see how the actors at the time could make fun of their own plays and the politics of who got to have what role, plays that are about the theater, but the session was over too quickly.

People were embarrassed to ask questions because that would seem to take what had happened seriously. I understand why this happens: there is the fear that people will start to be competitive or feel bad if they don’t do their part well if there is not enough joking. However, as I felt I had missed a long morning, I was sorry to go to a shortened session and really did want to ask questions about this farce. In this kind of session people also jockey for position to sit next to their friends or an important person, so it does begin more to resemble some of the bad aspects of luncheons.

Writing the conference up this time and looking at the sessions I missed above, and all the sessions with interesting topics about art, music and things I know little about (Venitian pastiche) that I could have gone to (instead of joining in on the popular easy play), I promised myself that the next time I go to one of these conferences I will not be lured away and will try new topics, and follow my own impulses. I know I won’t be able to go to one of these for a quite a while to come, and maybe that will galvanize me not to care who I am with or if anyone does or does not talk to me, but care very much for the privilege of hearing those really at work on my interests, look for the genuine, honest and non-pompous. How old do I have to be to be firm for myself?

Ellen

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Olivia Williams as Jane Austen in quiet creative reverie (Gwyneth Hughes and Anne Pivcevic, Miss Austen Regrets 2008)

Dear Friends and readers,

You see above my new avatar for my “Reveries under the Sign of Austen” blog. I’ve put a copy on the wall of my room too. It pictures a mood I wish I could sustain while writing.

For tonight and the next couple of blogs I again present notes from a recent conference I attended: this time the ASECS conference at Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is the one I present my “Rape in Clarissa” paper. As you can see three months have gone by; I’ve been occupied with my projects, reading, and writing. There is no tearing hurry as I probably will not be going to another conference after the one coming up at Portland (JASNA AGM) for at least a year afterwards (we are conserving money). Still unless I do them soon, I’ll not be able to transcribe my notes, for I do rely on memory, and if I don’t transcribe them I will never remember what I heard and it will have been not much good to me. I also like to think others enjoy and profit from reading about 18th century scholar’s topics in this form.

As I’ve begun to do, these will be much shorter as I can no longer take down details, and I include only reports of good papers and interesting sessions. As I spent one full day away from Albuquerque (in Santa Fe, looking at the town, a church, a few museums), there’ll be only two blogs. For tonight I have four sessions to tell of, most of it on Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, gothic and epistolary novels, and Germaine de Stael’s Corinne.

I got up at 7 am on Thursday in order to make a session starting at 8 on Riccoboni’s epistolary novels (“Special Delivery: French Epistolary, 3/18/10, 8:-9:30 am).


William Hogarth’s portrait of David Garrick and his wife, Eva-Maria Veigel (1762)

Andrea Magermans spoke about “Madame Riccoboni’s Epistolary Agenda.” In life as well as her fiction, Riccoboni was a prolific letter writer, and there are many intersections between her personal correspondences and epistolary fiction. In both she transcends the preconceived notion that women write letters spontaneously and asserts the equality of men and women. Her real life letters are playful, flirtatious, exude confidence; at the same as she assumes a self-deprecating stance; she varies her style to suit her correspondent; her fictional letters mirror this performative self; they have characters who are vivid and subjective in outlook and boldly display [her] opinions.

We hear in her personal correspondences a depth of hurt, from a woman involved with a younger man who is not reciprocating; as someone who wants her views on art to be taken seroiusly. She tells Garrick she loves him while knowing him to be married; she wants him to write her often and addresses herself to his wife too; to Diderot she wrote about plays, as an actress who knows the theater; he tells her in turn he disagrees with her views; he also says he finds her Fanni Butlerd superior to Juliette Catesby. She lectures LaClos on what is a real woman (as opposed to his portrait of Madame de Merteuil).

The novel Fanni Butler has the heroine writing the lover she has lost whose strategy is vengeance. Riccoboni uses a highly emotional style; Fanni is a woman trying to control herself; at the end of the book she rejects Alfred, keeps his side silent, and publishes the letters. She depicts herself as morally superior (though she has had an affair). We have a woman to reasserts composure.

Felicia Sturzer’s spoke on Riccoboni’s Lettres de Mylord Rivers a Sir Charles Cardigan . Riccoboni wrote 8 novels, 6 with woman at the center. This is one of the 2 with male writers, with a heroine, Adelaide, who rejects her suitor, and appropriates power to herself: she will be mistress of her body and fate.
An inset novella inside the main action concerns two heroines whose story challenges the probability of the male point of view in the main story. The novel is profoundly disillusioned about the reach of social interaction; characters struggle to understand one another and don’t manage. The positive outlook we find in the book is undermined by its author’s cynicism and melancholy. The epistolary technique works to held off closure in the novel.

Riccoboni withdraws into her self (“Je me demande ce que je suis”); again we have a woman (like herself) in love with a younger man. She shows the practice of coerced marriage robs women of happiness and dignity for life; they are alienated from themselves. She is not interested in telling stories of scorned women but of women who dictate the terms of their relationships (or who should).


Film realization of Cecile’s introduction to the man her mother has arranged for her to marry (1988 Valmont)

In general women’s novels of this era, and many epistolary and gothic ones have as a central theme that the woman who submits (and so many were forced to) in effect has any attempt at authentic identity destroyed for life


Sophie Calle, an (ironic) image of a birthday

Elizabeth Heckendorf Cook spoke about a modern conceptual artist, Sophie Calle, in order to draw parallels between the experience of an epistolary novel and Internet correspondence. These works enable us to watch writers writing and see how they are not in control of their texts.

This evoked quite a discussion of the audience’s experiences on the Internet and how lately with such a mass of people using computers to write, no longer are even medium-length postings typical. For young adults, what’s wanted is the equivalent of a single-line postcard. Instant messaging is a good example of not being able to be in control of your text. You cannot see the shape of what’s being said until you print it out. You are also prodded to respond to someone’s texting.

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Joshua Reynolds, his favorite niece Theophila Palmer reading Clarissa (1770s)

Of course the session I gave my paper at falls belongs to tonight’s category: “‘He said, she said:’: Rape in 18th century law, fiction, and moralist writing” (5/18/10, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm). I’ve already said enough about mine whose proposal and text the reader can read on my website. Unfortunately, the two people who had said they would speak on rape in India (this would have a been a post-colonial treatment) and the laws concerning rape in 18th century America didn’t make it. There were, though, two post-modern papers on rape. Leslie Richardson showed how rape shatters, imposes and fragments the victim’s identity; and Sarah Skoronski pointed out parallels between Richardson’s Clarissa and Eliza Haywood’s The Fruitless Inquiry. Both novels exposed how the English law courts and mores offered nothing to comfort or help women. The discussion afterwards was lively and wide-ranging; one idea was reiterated: repeatedly it matters little what a woman says about her experience; she is judged on stereotypical grounds of distrust.

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For the third session I can report on again I got up early to make an 8 am session: “Revisiting the Epistolary Novel” (3/20/10, 8:00 – 9:30 am) included two gothic novels.


Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840), Eldena Ruin (1825)

Caroline Domenghino spoke about the German epistolary novel of the 1790s as reflected in Ludwig Tieck’shttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Tieck William Lovell. Ms Domenghino’s argument was William Lovell is a generic hybrid mixing gothic, novel of sensibility, bildingsroman, and epistolary types. The main characters are easily deceived; most of the character undergo a journey of deformation; and everywhere are arbitrary and malicious (gothic) forces.

It begins in England; the hero must travel and gets involved with a secret society in Rome; he is corrupted by staged ghosts into becoming a murder by a man who hates his father; he seduces his friends sister who commits suicide. The novel is filled with harrowing twists and turns; fatalistic causality is everywhere; philosophically it’s pessimistic; there is no viable model for a good life. An epistolary novel often gives us a horizontal spacial story; and here we do have tales of intriguing secret societies; and letters and documents which are misperceived. They are often not dated; destructive in impact; again little effective social interaction takes place in the book, only oscillations in blind relationships. Friends become bitter enemies. (Obviously?), it takes a stance opposite to that of Goethe’s Wilheim Meister.

Lorraine Piroux spoke about the impersonal presence of LaClos in his Les Liaisons Dangereuses as an instance of how the private and public intermix in epistolary narrative. The imagined editor of the book insists on flaws in the writers’ styles in order to make us se the letters as the product of the characters and erase the author altogether.

She then went on to say that (ironically) such attempts at self-effacement conflict with the contemporary campaign for copyright or ownership of the text by authors. These claims and the use of paratexts in epistolary fictions are attempts to make one’s text authorless and found in other writers (e.g., Diderot, Richardson). I see the authors as protecting their private lives and themselves from attack; Ms Piroux made the sophisticated point that the notion that literature is an impersonal product of the self is a modern one. These are really deeply personal books.

So the two libertines, the naifs, the complicit and corrupted women while seeming impervious to the expression of personal sentiment in the author are not really so. (I agree with this and when I read these novels often feel that this or that passage is the author expressing him or herself.) The authors get away with these non-personality figures and libertinism becomes the language of literarture itself — divorced from responsibility and a specific real self.


J. W. Turner, Arthur’s Seat, Craig

Nicole Wright spoke about Scott’s Redgauntlet, a partially epistolary novel. She described how Darcie writes to Alan, and how about 1/3 of the way through Scott shifts to omniscient in order to pick up speed and create a larger historical impersonal perspective. Darcie, she suggested, is a Clarissa type as a male. Scott had written in his preface to an edition of Clarissa that Lovelace deserved death for what he did to Clary; we see Darcie imprisoned, tortured emotionally, emasculated, and we enter a nightmare world of the oppressed which includes egregious cruelty to animals. An enlightenment point of view plays over this narrative which is pushing for the rights of society’s outcasts and animals. The fierce Wandering Willie’s tale is a reinforcement of the central tale in dissolute thriller mode.

Later in the book we do return to the epistolary or at least first person mode because Alan reads Darcie’s journal while in prison. Scott thus manages multiple perspectives that are subjective and a dual point of view (as Alan and Darcie are often presented as on opposite sides of all sorts of issues). There are (given this recursive structure) remarkably few repetitions of ideas or types of events.

The discussion afterwards was as filled with insight and information as the papers. From the paper on Les Liaisions Dangereuses we discussed T. S. Eliot’s claim the poet necessarily subordinates his personality; Piroux said you cannot escape your individual presence; while ownership of a text is an imaginary contract as physically the books are made by the publisher, the way we are extending copyright shows just how much we really assume the individual is his or her text (even if this is brought on by corporations who seek to control texts which bring in money)

People said that if you have students who do like to read, they often love epistolary novels. They enjoy the writing selves, the voyeurism, the turning back and forth from relative perspectives.

Finally, we returned to William Lovell as a peculiarly bizarre book, reflecting the troubled era of the 1790s and crazed events that occurred.

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Hubert Robert, Washerman on steps in Rome

Probably the most easily enjoyable session for me in all the three days was the one on Germaine de Stael’s Corinne; ou, l’Italie. It was the last session of papers I attended and was titled “Teaching Germaine de Stael’s Corinne (given after lunch on Saturday, 10/20/10, 2-3:30 pm)

Preparatory to this blog I wrote in April (so I meant to write up these reports much earlier) about a reading and discussion we had of this marvelous book on WWTTA in 2002; so I need not discuss the book’s story or why it is an important text. Nanette Lecoat was the moderator and she said the aim of the session was to share ideas on how to keep (or once again make) this book a major European classic. She briefly showed how she always made a careful chronology of the novel’s events to start the students’ off and then brought in chronology of the Napoleonic era and history within the novel to help the students know literally and historically where they are as they read.

Ione Crummy taught the book in a womens’ studies court in 2 state universities and said she felt the experience was a success: the students ended up liking and understanding what they had read. They read it in excerpts. (So it’s considered too long!). Students could read it in the original French or an English translation. She presented the story as partly a romantic dialogue between the sexes — or two gendered people — as we see in Benjamin Constant’s novel, Adolphe, or George Sand’s Lui et Moi (Sand and Musset).

She also made a heavy use of photographs and videos of the places the heroine travels to and where the action takes place: England, European continent, Italy, Scotland. So she showed us slides of Tivoli, the Sybil’s temple, the Sistine Chapel, Vesuvius, the Colosseum at nightGainboroughs. She played music for the students that is played in the novel.

Laura Fortner wanted to present the book as entering into serious philosophical issues as part of a survey course in great books. She specifically pointed to her students’ tendency not to like “whining” characters as something she saw as main obstacle to their liking the book. (I admit I think this focus overdone and wonder why she worried about this problem more than any other.)

Eric Gidal’s approach was the least compromising and probably (for those students he carried with him) the truest way to lead students to understand and like the book. He assigned the whole thing; he contextualized it with excerpts from earlier and contemporary texts:Addison and Steele on travel; Schiller as a romantic; Fielding’s Tom Jones as picaresque; Rousseau’s Julie, ou La Nouvelle Heloise as a book fo sensibility, subjectivity, women; and Byron as a matching figure to Stael.

They analyzed the character’s social behavior as a way of developing a better ethics for themselves. He showed them that Stael’s book promotes a tradition of personal liberation; self-determination; entering into rich national cultures and art forms. He presented it as elegiac and tragic as we see characters unable to reach the past or reconcile cultural authority and independence.

He did use universal terms a good deal so there was probably an erasure of the book’s critique of the way sexuality is experienced for women in our society as central to their misery.

This point of view was taken up by Veronique Olivier-Wallis who juxtaposed excerpts from Corinne (again excerpts) with a reading of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and a watching of the popular film (Andrew Davies the screenplay writer and central presence).


The anxious Bridget, a modern version of the shattered Corinne

Ms Olivier-Wallis said by juxtaposing the movie especially to this older book, she got a lot more questions about mores and customs then than she ever did before. The students compared what they automatically understood in Bridget Jones to what they read in Corinne.

What did they learn? Bridget Jones has a Hollywood like happy ending while Corinne is not so lucky, and ends a victim. Yet Bridget is also an object of prey to two men; she cannot be herself or feel she has worth unless she’s loved by a man. To be an authentic self she has to alienate her body and mind from what comes naturally. Bridget cannot find herself. She needs to be forgiven by Darcy; to be enabled by him. Corinne asserts the right of a woman to fulfill her passions for herself (as men do). Oswald does repress himself and marry a woman he despises; we see that he too ends miserable.

Peculiarly female anxieties (and not all have to do directly with sex) and the problem of self-acceptance are central motifs in all three works (Bridget Jones, the book, the movie, and Stael’s Corinne).

Fabienne Moore’s talk had the great merit of candour. More than the others she was willing to say where broad troubles come in when teaching this book.

She linked Corinne, ou l’Italie to Europe and presented it as a travel book, where the travel finds her identity through meditating cultures and landscapes. Her idea was also to show how the novel argues a woman has equal right to enlightenment learning, histor and poetry as a man. She did say she felt she may not have been able to get across the importance of history and traditional cultural ideals as embodied in great works or monuments. She talked of the ideal of tolerance then; the book fosters peaceful civilization seems to have been her point. The idea that we can revitalize ourselves through studying, say German did not go over. A country’s place on an (imagined) world stage they did get.

(It must be admitted the problem here really is the average college student today is not as intelligent as one could wish. Mass post-secondary education has made the percentage of more capable thinking students smaller in classrooms.)


Paul Sandby, Windsor Terrace at Night: meditative landscape art

She also found that the way the book works by presenting its argument through tragedy (we see those deprived of these rights destroyed) doesn’t work for most students today; many will not listen to the idea anyone can die for love. So the tragic ending where Oswald is a rigid masculine embodiment of imperialism was hard to get across. Corinne as a character was too exotic to many of them too.

I was sorry that Karyna Szmurlo gave up her ten minutes so we could have some general discussion afterwards. She is such a generous insightful soul and knows so much about and loves Stael so thoroughly it would have been a joy to listen to her.

However, we did get into some good talk afterwards because time enough was left.

Ms Olivier-Wallis had brought along a graduate student of hers who had been introduced to Corinne by way of Bridget Jones. Andrea said she loved Corinne and Bridget Jones both: they are women alone, dependent on their friends, women trying to find love and build a good life for themselves. She loved the farcical comedy of the modern work and understood the tragedy of the older one through it. She liked serious inward novels and thought happy endings not realistic.

It should be remembered she’s probably one of the best students if not the best in Ms Olivier-Wallis’s class. Clearly, though, Bridget Jones, book and film are a way of opening a door students can go through to reach Corinne. You make the unfamiliar understandable by beginning with the familiar.

The people were willing to listen to my experience of reading Anne Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest with people online as well as a classroom as analogous to the problem of reading Corinne with students. I brought that in to suggest how meditating in tranquil rural and peopleless landscapes and the poetic texture of the language evoking this experience is central is to Radcliffe and Stael’s art and how you have to get students to love that, linger on it, appreciate the reading experience.


John Crome, Yarmouth Harbour

Karyna agreed close reading was central to loving Corinne, and added that there’s no getting away from the superiority of Stael’s French. You need to take the time, to have quiet moments in class, to read on the level of the sentence. It’s prose poetry; you have to try to explain or present what the heroine does when she performs improvisations in front of an audience.

Another person in the audiene whose name I didn’t know felt Radcliffe’s Udolpho was a book very like Corinne in its depiction of women’s powerlessness and tragedies. Both are sentimental novels she said — and that is so, for in a way Udolpho is very like Austen’s S&S in its depiction of family life and losses.

Mr Gidal added that Corinne is an anthology: it’s a travelogue, has Ossianic songs, neoclassicism (there’s a section where the heroine falls in love with Rome and alludes to Gibbon’s Roman Empire ironic tragic history); you must grapple with its links to ethnographies (anthropological analyses). You should try to explain what is cosmopolitanism and why such an attitude is one we might want centrally in our earth today (ideally). Finally, one must not make too many compromises in trying to make the book accessible. One must pick one’s critical issues.

And so the session, and the intellectual content of the conference for me ended.

I spoke afterwards to Karyna and the young woman in the room who had talked about Udolpho. She had apparently been in a number of the same sessions I was in and noticed me. Our talk about these was heartening for me.

Ellen

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Mary Smith (Lisa Dillon), invented character from 2008 Cranford Chronicles

Dear friends and readers,

A couple of months ago I read Kathryn Hughes’s moving sterling account The Victorian Governess,


Cover based on painting, The Governess by Richard Redgrave (1840),

and there encountered Mary Smith (1822-1889) who wrote an autobiography of herself; I was so engaged by the tone and life of this woman as quoted by Hughes that when I found her text existed as a google book, I couldn’t resist buying and then devouring The Autobiography of Mary Smith, Schoolmistress and Nonconformist, a Fragment of a Life; With Letters from Jane Welsh Carlyle and Thomas Carlyle.

I just fell in love with this woman as strongly as I did the remarkable central woman journalist, Anthony Trollope’s beloved Kate Field, early this winter, and when I discovered my Mary wrote and published poetry, and this too was available as a google posthumously published book, Miscellaneous Poems, I sent away for it from GMU’s interlibrary loan.

Since reading both I decided to write a blog in her honor this evening, and lo and behold came across a short biography in Atlantic Monthly, June 1894, pp 838-840), and then learned that her poems have recently been republished in an edited annotated collection from Nineteenth-Century English Labouring Class Poets, edd. McEathron, Goodridge and Kossick.

Here we have the magic of the Internet, which has also brought me so many friends. How does the system work? Well there’s a small angel in each machine.

So first, Mary Smith’s life, then a few of her poems, and finally a few words on Kathryn Hughes’s fine achievement.

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Henry James’s mid-century unnamed governess played by Michelle Dockery (Sandy Welch’s Turn of the Screw, 2009)

Mary Smith writes eloquently of her life in terms hard to summarize to do justice to. She was a highly intelligent deeply moral young woman born to a dissenting shoemarker near Birmingham. It’s a story of continual hardship, derision of all her gifts, and exploitation. A typical phase of her life: she left a school she was teaching at in Scotby, Cumberland, where she was happy because of the landscape and people she worked for, to continue living with a family named Osborne whom she was attached to; she worked for another 3 years for them for no money and meagre food, not appreciated and finally driven off because someone in the family (probably the wife but hard to say) was jealous of her. She accompanies the family rather than live alone; again and again her being a woman alone is what does her in. She gets no respect that works in a effective way for her. Her life bears out bears out everything Kathryn Hughes says about lives of governesses in England in her The Victorian Governess — and more.

Her experiences as a governess finally drove her to open a school permanently — one she ran in Carlisle, UK, for 24 years. Here’s how it happened. She had been hired by a horror of a woman (cheap on food and clothes so she could show off to outsiders, cruel to servants in her niggardliness and with her commercial salesman husband such another as the grasping Mrs Mason and her hard philistine husband in Trollope’s Orley Farm) and has a hard time freeing herself. Reminds me of landlords today who hound tenants for the rent when they sign a year’s lease.

She then returned to Mr Osborne and his family. I’m beginning to suspect there was an implicit (not consummated) love affair; that would explain why repeatedly she is fired after sudden harsh treatments. The wife is never mentioned but there are apparently endless children.

So she opens a school again. Again blamed by Osborne for taking his clientele I suppose. But he goes out of business, and her school slowly flourishes while her strength holds out, and she has finally had the courage to introduce herself by letter to Jane Carlyle, who becomes a friend and in terms of feeling, just about adopts Mary as a surrogate daughter or niece.

Among the events gone over towards the last decades of her life in the book are her going to the Exhibition of 1861 with her brother. She does not like the train ride, not the Exhibition particularly (not fooled, and more interested by the spectators), but her exploration of London and the tourist world at the time.

In her forties she at last began to publish a little: she got involved in politics locally on the basis of going to lectures, becoming a reporter and writing short pieces others saw were astute: she sees the power-roots of the Crimean war, is an abolitionist, and implicit socialist. She had a small book of poetry published but this hurts more than it comforts: it costs her so much and only one notice.

I’m just compelled by her intense intelligent ethical presence and the remarks she makes about education (she’s right it’s easier to write if not corrected than read with understanding and harder yet to come up with interesting comments on reading) and character growth. How she loves the natural world. I see no sign of her reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, alas — or any other of the famous novels of the era (Julia Kavanagh also writes novels about governesses). Surely she would have mentioned it or one if she had.


Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre (the 1983 BBC mini-series, a masterpiece)

I assume she had not money for a subscription to a library or to buy and was too hard worked for time — or maybe she feared her reader would not approve. Her style is felicitious. Her favorite author Emerson. She does read memoirs sometimes — from out of a local library. Probably she means some of her poems to be imitations of his.

I’m obviously not alone in being drawn to her. Beyond Jane Carlyle, the editors of Nineteenth Century Labouring Poets, and the people who bought us the google reprints, and Kathryn Hughes, Heidi Thomas, and Sue Conklin and Birtwistle, the creators of the BBC mini-series, Cranford Chronicles and Return to Cranford supposedly based on fiction by Elizabeth Gaskell used this real Mary Smith (played by Lisa Dillon) for a major character in the series. There is such a minor character in Elizabeth Gaskell’s fiction, but here she is made a major friend and companion-niece whno lives with Mattie (played by Judi Dench), the heroine from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford as her young cousin; when Mattie loses much of her money, the mini-series Mary goes to London rather than stay and be a burden; she she begins to write for a living and we are told she works as a teacher (not clear whether governess or schoolteacher).


Again Lisa Dillon as Mary (from Cranford, see also still prefacing this blog)

This is a very fictionalized account of this woman’s life but some aspects of character in this series is taken from this autobiography. It provides the series with the one young woman who leaves town to build herself independence through a career in the modern way.

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Mary Smith’s poetry

I liked some of the poems very much. I think I have chosen three typical shorter ones. She writes in ballad stanzas most of the time. Her narratives remind me of Wordsworth and Smith’s protest poems; her familiar poems about her diurnal life some of Anna Barbauld’s poetry. Mary has one long old-fashioned narrative poem (8 line stanzas) called Progress where she tries to give a humane definition of what is progress.

*”The Snow Storm”*

A tale of the fells

The cotter’s children are at the pane,
Counting the flakes as they fall;
But the mother looks up the long white lane,
Anxiously over them all.

She sees the sun set round and red,
Behind the poplars bare,
And the white mist cover the old tower’s head,
And her heart is fill’d with care.

The shepherd’s dog clings to his heels,
As they silently speed through the snow;
And the carter follows with soundless wheels,
Bowing and bending low.

She sees it all, and her heart sinks low,
For her boy, who is scarcely eight,
Is over the fells, the quarries below,
Without either guide or mate.

He went at morn, when the sun shone out,
And the birds were twittering sweet,
And the brown hens chuckled and fluttered about,
And the road was alive with feet.

And now it is getting late and dark,
And not a star appears,
Nor chip of moon, which might serve as an ark,
In a night so dark with fears.

Yet she stands at the pane where she long has stood,
But now she has lost from her sight
The tower and the trees, and her chilling blood
Grows cold as the snow flakes white.

And her boy comes not, nor is there a sound
O’er all that waste of snow
Of human-kind; and with quick rebound
Her thoughts into actions flow.

And now she is over the moor, and has crossed
The brook and the grim white wood,
And has passed the tam all white with frost,
And the dam where the old mill stood.

And oft she has stood with strained ear,
And oft she has shouted wild;
But nought has come back to her heart but fear –
­No token of her child.

But the mother’s heart knows no despair,
And over that pathless deep,
Which the bravest heart might quail to dare,
She still her way doth keep.

Yet in vain she wanders! for in the drift,
Her boy, with clasped hands,
And eyes still calm, and still uplift,
A pallid phantom stands!

His fair hair, like a sweet dead flower,
Flies fitful in the blast,
And his parted lips, all void of power,
Are sealed with a silence fast.

And nevermore will his mother kiss
Those sweet cheeks here below,
For she lies-O heaven! in woe there’s bliss­
Untroubled in the snow.

*”On Hearing the Chimes of Carlisle Cathedral at Midnight”*

Do iron tongues articulate
Those soul·entrancing tones?
Or, has mute silence given leave
To the carved lips of stones ?

Those olden saints, with uplift eyes,
And visages so calm,
Those saints in the Cathedral porch,
Sing they this sacred psalm?

Or, has mysterious midnight
In vigil thought of Him,
And paused to celebrate that thought
In holy choral hymn?

As such, or as a chaunted prayer
From some far spirit sphere,
Or, as the voice of love, those tones
I can do nought but hear.

And yet they are the self-same sounds,
Which, like some gentle word,
Fall on the distracted ear of day,
Unnoticed and unheard.

Like voices long unregarded,
Till, in some dark sad hour,
They’re heard; ah! then we wonder
At their beauty and their power.

Oh, wond’rous chimes, peal evermore,
With rich cathedral swell,
From out the God-built towers of time,
More deep than tongue or bell.

And yet unheard! Oh, is it strange
We’re poor in thought, and sad?
Who hath an ear, knows that these tones
Make rich, and wise, and glad.

*”By the Fireside”*

Sitting once more by the fireside
Of the old paternal home,
As I often sit in memory
Pleasant phantoms go and come.

Hoary winter has descended,
Laid his white hand on the pane,
Flung his mantle on the orchard,
Darkened all the earth again.
,
And I sit there in my dreaming –
In the firelight’s gleaming light
­With the dear ones who in childhood
Made the winter darkness bright.

There are all the dear old faces,
All the forms both young and eld,
In their old accustom’d places,
As I them of old beheld.

Nor are looks of kindness wanting,
For I lean upon a chair,
From which eyes to mine responding
Ease my heart of all its care.

And a smile of love, long darkened
From my life, as in the past,
With a dear uplifting sweetness
Is once more upon me cast.

Words, too, follow, kind and tender,
Words I’ve often heard before,
But familiar still they render
The same blessing evermore.

For they bring back scenes of gladness,
Scenes of quiet household life;
Which remembered, soothe in sadness,
And make strong again in strife.

And though death has come between us,
Breaking bonds that were so blest,
In those scenes of love forever,
I find hope and joy and rest.

******************

Jodhi May as James’s unnamed governess (Nick Dear’s Turn of the Screw, 1999)

As for Kathryn Hughes, it’s a study which reveals the Victorian world to you through the governess figure, and (I think) shows that middling occupations today bear an uncanny resemblance to that of the governess at least when it comes to interviewing and getting the job. The best review I’ve come across is by Nancy Fix Anderson, published in Albion, 25:3 (1993):518-20. My only caveat is Anderson underestimates (why do people do this?) the harshness and abysmal poverty of the typical governess. That others were miserable, doesn’t discount hers. Also the sexual exploitation. Perhaps this is due to her not offering up the details (remember Blake).

The life of a governess very much compares with what Jane Austen’s Jane Fairfax and Emma and Elizabeth Watson dread, and Anne and Charlotte Bronte and Henry James’s governesses experience, not to omit the real life Jane Claire Clairmont, hitherto known mainly as Mary Shelley’s half-sister and one of Byron’s mistresses. Jane Fairfax is just the sort of person who ended up a governess, and the pattern of Jane Austen’s relatives’s lives shows that while she was not personally threatened (as far as we can tell), it was just such a woman of her class and education who would end up a governess or teaching at a school.


Ania Martin as the first Jane Fairfax, here an ignored and mortified Jane grateful for Mr Knightley’s courteous attention (1972 BBC Denis Constanduros’s Emma)

Diane Reynolds wrote on Austen-l:

From what I’ve read about governessing, including Agnes Grey, it was often a hard lot, filled with dawn to dusk labor and petty humiliations (obviously, it varied from home to home). I think to Jane Austen, it would have been a horror, because she would not have have time to write nor support for her writing–who would have taken her manuscripts to London, etc? Would her employers have been enraged that she was writing on “their” time? It would have been a form of death for her. I think there were huge differences between the work world then and now: now, we take “time off” as a given, we consider it “slavery,” when say a foreign-born governess, is made to work long hours without time off or overtime compensation (or social security) and we prosecute the perpetrators in highly-publicized cases that underscore a social consensus against such non-stop use of other humans. We see “stop and start” times, being “on and off” the clock as normal. But none of that was the case in Jane Austen’s time. From what I understand, at least in Victorian times (I don’t know if this holds for the Regency) there were more women seeking “positions” than there were positions ( a buyer’s market) and, as with slavery (which again, sometimes landed the enslaved in so-called (though I would not so call them) “good” positions (in fact, I think there was a book out some years ago in which a historian compared the lot of Southern slaves to Northern factory workers and determined that overall, the slaves had better conditions (!)) but slaves and governesses were essentially at the mercy of their employers. Obviously, a huge difference was that a governess could leave–at least in theory, though I imagine in practice, a single woman with no money would have little ability to leave the food, clothing and shelter of a governess position without another “situation” presenting itself. I would never liken it to “getting a job” today.

I concur strongly with Diane that for Austen it would have been a death-in-life — as would have court life and she uses strong words against life at court for any underlings (to the librarian). Everything we know (in print) by women who were governesses, and especially during the time women like Bessey Park Raines and Barbara Bodichon (mid- to later Victorian) show that the position of governess was disliked by most intensely — mostly because of the snobbery against the governess. how she was treated in a stigmatized isolating and often quietly humiliating way by her employers. The novels testify to this and a number of memoirs. Anthropologists tells us one of the worst experiences (and psychologists too) someone can have is to go down in status and have to stay among those whose status you had or shared or are above you and know it. People who are demoted at work in overwhelmingly numbers quit.

It’s this more than the drudge work, difficulty in coping which children who are also your employers (higher than you in status) and very low pay that made for the misery. Also (as I said about my mother-in-law) the long hours and lack of a private personal life — no courting (no sexuality allowed), no seeing your relatives and so on.

A member of WWTTA, Linda, put the center of the excruciation as Austen would imagine it (and Anne Bronte reveals) very well:

“Being a governess was a humbling–and intended by their employers to be a
humbling–experience. They were made to feel subservient and invisible. No acknowledgment of their intelligence or gifts was ever made. …”

In a collection of reviews of Jane Eyre by an upper class woman who identifies with the employer and we see that she is incensed to see the governess protest, sneers at the book, scorns the “whiner” (she just about uses that cruel word), and sees the book as incendiary radicalism.


Laurie Pyper as Jane Fairfax on her way to the post office (2009 BBC Sandy Welch’s Emma, the most recent incarnation)

Ellen

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Susan Hampshire as Lady Glen realizing no one will help her not marry Plantaganet Palliser and that on her own she cannot withstand the pressure to marry him (1:1)

Dear friends and readers,

This will be my last Palliser film blog for now. It’s a commentary on 12:26 (how the Duchess died and yet remained and was victorious at last); a perspective on the three parts of the series which (with a few adumbrations from 10:21 to 11:23) comprise The Duke’s Children; and a brief look back over the whole 26 part series.

Nearly one-half of 12:26 is given over to the Duchess’s death. Very un-Trollopian this because Trollope does not dwell on deaths themselves, but as they affect the living coming up to the death and afterwards when the person has vanished (Trollope is deeply secular in his impulses.)

From the time of the Duchess’s death a portrait of her when young (and it really looks like Susan Hampshire dressed as a young modest Lady Glencora Palliser) hangs in the front room where a great deal of the action happens, the most important scenes and the ones where we come upon the Duke. The camera is deliberately pointed many times so she is a silent presence watching over what happens (the feel is benign). Many scenes begin with the Duke sitting in an alcove inside the ubiquitous bow-window with many panes (which is a motif throughout the series as I’ve said many times); the colors we see through the window are muted blues and greys. From this window he can see Glencora’s grave.


Our first sight of the window, shortly after the Pallisers return from Switzerland; she is given nothing to do, experiences the place as a prisoner (1:2)

Throughout the part we see the Duke at this window whose many scenes make it a central symbol of lost time and shared ambivalent memory in the last two episodes. The last moments of the episode show him first looking one way to see Lady Mary, Tregear, Silverbridge and Isabel Boncassen meeting in a slightly different direction over against the priory, all joy and forgetting the older adults as they move to kiss and hug and begin their lives. The two young women hug in a form that recalls Millais’s picture of Mrs Orme and Lady Mason at the close of Orley Farm, a pose Lady Glen as Duchess and Madame Max enacted mid-way through the series when the old Duke died (8:15)

The two girls are dressed in dark but colorful equall bell like dresses and cheerfully bonding. He then looks in the other — at Lady Glen’s grave. When he walks from the priory after succumbing to Mrs Finn’s argument that he must let Tregear come in order on his own to think about Silverbridge, he stands in front of Lady Glen’s grave.

These are her children — including Tregear. Apparently in the full-length Duke’s Children (not yet published) Trollope makes the point that Tregear’s character is a male version of the Duchess’s. It has throughout the series been carefully established how close Silverbridge and like his mother in character, and now that the Duchess blessed the coming marriage of Mary and Tregear because she identified, and as she lays dying what Lady Glen wants is for Lady Mary to have control over her income so she may be free. She never gets that, and in near her last moments Lady Glen is excited and in an anguish at her attempts for this. When the girl stands up to the father and refuses to give up Tregear she brings up how the Duke’s money is largely from Lady Glen and how her mother wanted her to have some of it freely (without control) He grows intensely silent and grave and is electrified with memory for a moment.


From the first walk in the Priory, Lady Glen telling Alice of her grief and loss (2:3)

In Trollope’s The Duke’s Children the Duke is remembering Lady Glen a good deal of the time, though the memories are different. In Trollope’s novel the Duke objects to the marriage of Lady Mary and Tregear because he too identifies only in his case he sees Tregear as another Burgo and to give Lady Mary to Tregear is somehow to betray all the years he has given to Lady Glen. It’s too painful to him to admit or think Lady Glen still regretted the marriage.

The case is just about completely altered in the 3 films. In the scene in 12:25 between Lady Glen and Mrs Finn just before Lady Glen collapses, Lady Glen does say she wants the marriage because she suffered so, but she accedes she is no longer suffering and it was for the best. In Trollope’s novel Lady Glen never admits this, she does not show this intense love for the Duke and respect and tenderness, and in the movie it seems a principle with her, not that her life was taken from her. This is countered by Lady Mary’s argument to her father why does he want to make her life so much less and in effect miserable, but as time is such a motif in the film some viewers might dismiss Lady Mary here.

The intense pain of the novel is in other words mitigated into hard sorrow in the film; the pain Raven’s Duke feels is the loss of the wife, sheer loneliness for her (not to be underestimated as the sense of loss keeps him at that window). Trollope’s Duke remembers life with Lady Glen had been very checkered and in unspeakable moments in his mind her continuing apparent regret at her loss of Burgo,(why in the novel she encouraged Mary’s marriage to Tregar).


The crisis moment in the series where she turns away from Burgo (Barry Commoner, 2:4)

So in the novel her regret was unending apparently if unspoken most of the time.

In the film the Duke objects to Lady Mary’s marriage solely on grounds of the young man’s rank and lack of money. He is not one of us. “Not our kind.” This phrase resounds through the film. The theme here is one which connects to how the Duke is in principle for equality, but for himself, not so, and is part of Raven’s pro-Tory text. We see the limits of democracy and how we have to have good and kind and moral leaders who are well-educated and so on and so forth. It’s moving when the son leaves the Tories (based on personal dislike of Orlando and finally his understanding he cannot be free of his family in other’s eyes and will be used by Orlando to hurt and embarrass his father) and preaches in much simpler language the doctrine the Tories are selfish and the Whigs want equality more and a prosperous life for all. But this is countered by Silverbridge obviously maturing into a self-controlled decent and powerful man (and made more moral we are to feel because free of a need to exert himself and with much honorable self-esteem), and by his father’s stance against a marriage “outside our kind.”

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From the perspective of all three parts of the Palliser films adapted from The Duke’s Children, the whole story of Lady Mary is secondary, to Silverbridge’s. We lose the last of our ambiguous hero-gentlemen: in the uncut novel he is in the final scene and given a remark which by retrospect can be seen as ironic. Tregear married Lady Mary also to climb high. Raven’s Tregear is a poet type who is intellectually Tory and just loves Lady Mary, was hurt at being cast off by Lady Mabel but there’s no going back (this is what Silverbridge also says to his father when he says he will not break with Isabel).

The centrality of Silverbridge is is in accordance with the previous 3 episodes which through a variety of added scenes (some going back to the episodes which contained Phineas’s trial, with Silverbridge as a boy with Gerald neglected by the father but also misunderstood and yet the father wanting him to do what he recognized was right, i.e., study and read “like bricks” in his language). Armanick tells us the ms of The Duke’s Children also is titled Lord Silverbridge. Silverbridge’s relationship with the father is the second center of this film.

Lady Mabel’s grief too, something central in Duke’s Children where she loses Silverbridge (and does not love him), needs money, and wants Frank back and i last remembered by Frank as “howling” in a tempest. Trollope’s Lady Mabel is one of his great characters; this woman is just a mistaken husband-hunter and desperate type who is willing to use Silverbridge; it’s piteous how he can grow and mature and then cut her easily and even tell her what to do. He says that she must not come to Matching the way the father wants or he’ll not give her an allowance eventually – in the Trollope’s The Duke’s Children Lady Mabel does come and for weeks.

This is not to say the film is not deeply moving (I wept the first couple of times I watched); only that the pain is that of a man left alone and a good marriage cut short because of pneumonia. Raven could use pneumonia as why she dies because even now people die of pneumonia — and then there were no antibiotics whatsoever. It’s consoling too to see the son and father grow together and see how Silverbridge is taking over, becoming what the father can respect and how the boy loves the father. To an older person who has grown children this may function as moving wish-fulfillment.


Lady Glen pregnant and on her way home from Basle, her cousin Alice Vavasour (Caroline Mortimer) with her (3:6)

The now published abridged version of Trollope’s last Palliser novel, not particularly political in thrust, is also used to validate a mild Toryism. I’ve met so many people who take Trollope to be a Tory; the kind of reading of the novels we find in Raven’s text and the influence of these films provide a framework which insist this interpretation (an inaccurate one) is right and out of which readers who do read the novel see the novels.

I’d say Trollope’s novel includes betrayal: the original betrayal of Lady Glen; the betrayals of years; Lady Mabel’s planned betrayal of Silverbridge (which he catches in time) and Frank’s betrayal of her and the past which may not be retrieved. In the film there’s no need to retrieve the past. The past is different, a new age is before us, but the past was not bad and the new age is idealized.

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Interesting that a novel written in 1880 centers partly on women, women’s losses, ambiguous betrayals, and becomes in 1974 a novel centering on men and the women’s losses are presented as momentary and they as having no choice or idea of anything but marriage — only Lady Mabel is vestige of this and she’s in love with Frank and now desperate and her case dismissed by Duchess. The novel written in 1880 presents an ambiguous marriage and much ambivalence, love and more hunt (and according to Steven Armanick the full text has more of Lady Glen’s bitterness and difficult nature for the Duke anyway); the movie in 1974 presents the longed-for basically contented pair. Some will say this is the result of films being for a mass audience; well, Trollope was not a feminist and meant to sell widely. Perhaps the Victorians were more candid than we in some areas: about the realities of marriage, they openly attacked religion as fostering hateful impulses, they openly discussed death.

The last three films are done with great dignity and grace. I can see that it would not be done in this way today and why (why defer to this ideal which is so unreal) and yet I regret it.

Mrs Finn (Barbara Murray) has been the most exemplary figure for women in the films, with the Duke (Philip Latham), Phineas Finn (Donald McCann) and now Silverbridge (Anthony Andrews) embodying versions of ideal masculinity. Lady Glen (Susan Hampshire) and Lady Laura (Anna Massey) were great roles of flawed women. There was a whole variety of flawed men. The minor women were bullies, bossy, and sluts (so the old sex control comes in too) or stupid about sex (Emily Wharton and Lizzie Eustace some in here). It’s not coincidence there is so much more for men and that the woman who is ideal is not one who wanted any kind of public career.


Mr Bunce (Haydn Jones) who needs Phineas to bribe a policeman to get him out of jail after a demonstration (4:7)

In the interest of actually bringing some evidence to bear that a film can be as good and better than a text, just different because it’s grammar, devices, strategies, means are different: one overarching theme of the Palliser series is the importance of history. This is conveyed by the use of mise-en-scene: the pictures, the costumes changing and the rock-bottom insistence throughout the films that history matters and this particular even if fictionalized history.

One reason these films seem obsolete is an ignoring of memory and recent history (never mind older) is endemic and growing among older people — this was ever common among the young. The stills of the Duchess and the Duke in the priory and the whole panoply of stills of places now gone and changed is the point of this costume drama. Lady Mary on our groupsite space stands next to a mouldering cathedrale; she is dressed as we no longer do but once did.

The slow pace, and attention to detail are part of this message about history as well as an attempt at historical accuracy which takes money. Some “cross-over art and commercial films and TV quality drama seeking a wider audience do their best to modernize the past.

The effect of the effect of having more than one story in each of Trollope’s novels and thus each of the series films: in most adaptations one might have one or two subplots but that’s all and all three come to an end around the same
time. In the Pallisers following Trollope’s novels we have some stories which appear at various points of the 26 episodes are resolved and the characters never seen againL Andrew Davies gets seven pairs of lovers and stories in in his HKHWR: Louie and Emily, Nora and Hugh, Caroline and Glascock, Camilla and Arabella and Gibson, he adds Lady and Sir Marmaduke Rowley, we have Mr and Mrs Boffit, Dorothy and Brooke Burgess; extras are Priscilla, Colonel Osborne, with Aunt Stanbury having story of lover; Caroline’s friend made very marginal.

Having different stories over the course of a long mini-series is again to make us feel we are watching history and show us continuums of upper class (mostly because that is the purview of Trollope’s Palliser books and Raven’s predilection too) males coping with life’s demands. Each set of characters care about themselves, but we begin to see them as players or people with transient parts
against a backdrop of history.


An unrepaired roof in Ireland, gazed at by Phineas Finn, our secondary hero (5:10) who tries to work for his fellow Irishmen while forwarding his own career

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I return to this last part. I find watching this last part at times unbearably moving. The death of the Duchess is everywhere and not forgotten — from costumes to mood to mise-en-scene — in the ruins again, the white sky, the cawing of birds. The lines resonate with modern preoccupations too: Mrs Finn asks the Duke is he prepared to destroy his daughter’s life because the man she loves has a position in life which displeases him.

A position in life which displeases the other person. That wording is not in Trollope. It does describe The Way Many Today Are.

Again the window is used, and it’s elegiac: so much occurs by that window, near the picture of the Duchess; as Duke wakes up the following morning, we see its greenery and now I remember Lady Mabel Grex and Silverbridge, also with Frank, and Mary too with Duchess in previous episodes.

Film adaptations of older high status books often show heroines happy to be in retreat; as I contemplate Mary’s satisfaction in just being with Mrs Finn I remember (2007 Persuasion) Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot happy in family at Uppercross and so many other scenes of this kind too. Solace — and shows how false is the rhetoric about networking and socializing to many in their hearts — no matter what Mrs Finn’s words to Lady Mary about being better in London or gaiety.

Colors are now sombre: both Mary and Isabel in a sort of dull purple, Mrs F and Duke in black

Silverbridge’s “Now that I will not have” (that he be used to humiliate his father) is the equivelant of Mary’s stout refusal: both firm and good people, and we are to see this and commend the mother — and father too. So this is the happy ending, good young strong adults facing the world — superior to what Lady Glen was (nervous) and more conscious of intimate feelings than Duke was (when young)

When Silverbridge gets on his knees to Isabel it feels like a culmination we’ve been waiting for. Anthony Andrews as grown Silverbridge first appears in 10:20 (high conflicts in political world), last episode where Duchess moving out the door with Mary to face her new career. He is first seen with Tregear too. He has been kicked out of Oxford at that point. So Andrews in 6 episodes as is Irons and Nicholls, 11:22 we first meet Gerald and in the 4 episode go to Venice. So it’s 11:22 we first meet Lady Mabel. She is never a central figure in a continuous story quite the way Alice Vavasour say is. How cruel Trollope is to women who drive themselves to marry to be comfortable and for money. Never so cruel to men.

Going through it while there is enough upbeat (after all the young couples wed, Silverbridge and Mary have firm good personalities; Gerald means well, the Duke returns to public life), it is a very sad sombre final episode on the whole: embodied in the dress and spirit of Mrs Finn, not to omit Lady Mabel.

Anna Carteret makes herself incisively memorable, and her daughter, Hattie Morahan (Elinor Dashwood in the recent 2008 S&S) is a worthy successor. As for the duke, letting go; he’s letting go. It’s a lesson the series also teaches again and again.


Lady Jane Carbuncle (Helen Lindsay, a favorite for me in the series, the character type does not appear in Trollope) relaxing in a carriage coming home from the theater with Lizzie Eustace (7:13).

I find myself wishing Davies had succeeded in persuading someone at the BBC or other organization which does these film series (WBGH, Granada) to allow him to do it. I suspect he wanted them to spend too much money. I think to myself how differently he would have done it. He would not have let Trollope get away with the idealization of the heir. There is far too much deference paid to Silverbridge and it would not be done by Davies I suspect. 70,000 pounds is not too much to spend to part this important person from Tifto? what crap is this? what defense of the status quo and dismissal of other people. In book Trollope does show how idle a rich man’s life Silverbridge leads: from shooting, to racing, to hunting, hardly ever going to Parliament and thn his idea is it’s a club of friends. The Duke is appalled; Davies would do something with this. We’d have had some sense of servants, of another world Tifto is keeping clear of, hard and mean, much more satiric laughter too.


The last we see of Collingwood (Maurice Quick), the faithful servant, serving with Lady Mary to take (in this 1974 series) the numinous privileged male’s coat off.

Ellen

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Nell Blaine (1922-96), The Cookie Shop (1986) — a favorite woman artist for me

Dear friends and readers,

On C18-l, a listserv I’ve been on since 1994 Jim Chevalier asked the question, “What were our research interests?” for the ostensible reason that then we could all know what areas we shared and what was the expertise or real terrains of the community. The motive was more to get people to write and thus keep the community alive with writing presences.

At first few answered, and there was an immediate tendency not just to cite pubilshed articles or books, but refer to a recent academic site where academic-style papers are published. One growing (it was asserted) by leaps and bounds: it’s a form of self-advertisement, face-book academic version. But, rightly, Jim said that he was looking for something different from the sort of thing allowable to articulate in papers. People did begin to offer a description, short usually of research interests conventionally understood (what X is publishing or working on right now or has done). But happily finally the listowner, suggested this was a hard question to answer and told of his research areas and interests as his life’s work over years of living, teaching, being alive.

So I wrote in too, and thought I’d put my posting here as a blog since this blog is turning into an academic-style one where I write in a familiar letter manner about my serious scholarly interests (as it might be put in describing a resume).

I agree with Kevin Berland that this is — or was — a hard question to answer as posed. Areas of research interest for people who do it as central to their lives over a long period of time morph as our lives morph so it’s not just a question of new areas of interest coming out of projects but the way we go about it changing. For me too some of the areas I’ve gotten involved in have been the result of relationships and events (meeting people and joining groups) so I was commissioned to write a book on Anthony Trollope for the Trollope Society and having spent five years on it altogether found myself a Trollopian and have stayed with it — going to two conferences with papers, and recently (last month) publishing a review of a book that emerged from one of these conferences. I do love the man’s books and have grown to like him too, but it was an external event or meeting someone that diverted or expanded my interests. And now I’ve published on George Eliot too (and love her novels and letters and criticism about her, and biographies) and moved out further to Margaret Oliphant.


John Atkinson Grimshaw, one of my favorite Victorian painters, this is Leeds, autumn 1893, Golden Light – a copy hangs on one of the walls of my room

While the career trajectory often demands that one stay within a given period or interest, it’s not been that way for me. Early on I changed areas too: I began as an Early Modern specialist with an interest in poetry, dropped that to move to the 18th century and wrote my dissertation on Richardson’s Clarissa and Grandison. There I can formulate it a usual way: I was gripped by the book (Clarissa), still am (!), but also interested to answer the question, how the modern novel with its deep subjectivity developed out of the earlier romance forms. I wanted to know how this creative mood whereby when a reader reads a novel she will think she is literally “in” the book somehow, lose a sense of the world around her, and imagine herself in this world to the point you have to be proded to half-wake up to reality. I thought it was located in the reveries of epistolary narrative. I’m still fascinated by epistolary narratives, but have moved on to gothic, female gothic, French novels (as important to this process of creating the modern novel). I love French literature, and especially texts by women from the later 17th into our own time. Never tire of them :)


Again Nell Blaine, this time Cosmos, Night Interior, 1976

No small joy for me has been 18th century picturesque and rococo art:


Canaletto, Northumberland House, 1752 (the wallpaper for this main computer I write on and look at all the time),

landscape poetry, but it also helped that Robert Adams Day advised me a paper I wrote on Clarissa had a dissertation topic in it and said he would be my advisor. It was that offer that drew me to the 18th century as the problem of finding an advisor and a topic to write about that would be acceptable by some authority was solved.

But I didn’t give up my poetry and in the end instead of writing a scholarly researched book translated the complete oeuvres of two Italian Renaissance poets; Vittoria Colonna and Veronica Gambara, and kept up that one too — I wrote a review of a recent translation of part of Colonna’s oeuvre. I’m interested in women’s poetry and wrote a series of essays on “foremother poets” for a poetry festival online organized by a group of women poets, an offshoot of a listserv; we (a larger group) then published an anthology of poems by us (one a person in the book) called Letters to the World. Anna Barbauld belongs here for me as a central woman poet only now beginning to be adequately read.


Giovanni Volpato and Louis Ducrois, The Temple to the Sybil at Tivoli, 1750s (the wallpaper for my laptop on my library table)

And one develops new interests — one which is partly the result of teaching is film studies, film adaptations of novels. Students and lots of people “get their stories” from movies nowadays, and movies influence how books are read or make visible how they are read at a given time, and I’m now engaged in a book project, the Austen movies — as well as an article project on Trollope, the Palliser films. And now I’ve grown fascinated with the work of Andrew Davies. My respect for him increases daily — or nightly. The other night I watched a masterwork by him (and Tristram Powell, the director, son of Anthony who wrote Dance to the Music of Time), Falling, an adaptation of a novel by Elizabeth Jane Howard (and I love and read all the time women’s memoirs and novels, an interest which began to be scholarly back with Clarissa).

I keep up with publications on the science of medicine (its history too) because I teach continually a course called Advanced Composition on the Natural Sciences and Technology. Often as much as a third of my class is made up of young and older adults who work in the worlds of medicine.

I see I forgot Austen. I first read her when I was 12 or 13 and have never stopped. She never fails me, and I keep my bookcase full of books by and about her, and essays and all sorts of things near my desk in my workroom. Close at hand, near to heart. In fact reading women’s memoirs and novels that come out of the Austen tradition or are like her books in their woman-centered point of view and interest in subjectivity and the private life impinged on by public are a need for me. I find comfort and strength in such books.


My favorite of all the heroines, Elinor Dashwood as enacted by Hattie Morahan in the 2008 S&S (by Davies and Pivcevic), in a moment where she sounds and has a facial and bodily expression like that of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

And also feminism. In the middle 1990s I had a conversion experience. I realized I had misunderstood the feminist movement, had (wrongly) seen it as a movement of elite women seeking to improve their career prospects and create power and prestige for themselves. This was the result of being here in cyberspace online and reading many woman’s postings and being on all sorts of lists. I realized feminism could and would help me, free me, enable me to understand what had happened to my in my life better and also read literature in a new way that made it meaningful for me, so that I could and did find myself in books in ways I could not see before — and for the first time. This has not changed what I read, but the way I read it and how I write about it. I could never have written the paper, “Rape in Clarissa” in the 1980s nor delivered it in public the way I did. Nowadays I discern four phases, here outlined, and these influence the way I see books and writing today too:

The first phase: officially visible started in 1848, in the US, by a conference in upper New York State, familiar to us in the suffragette movement where women asked for what in the western world is mostly at least in lipservice granted:

the vote, for career and education equality, for prohibition, critiquing the family structure strongly as such for hurting women physically and financially; this phase includes a demand for prohibition because when men, husbands and fathers are drunk, they don’t work and make money for the family, and they are frequently violent;

The second phase I’d sum up as the most radical and what makes feminism an object for attack, and is still hotly contested (this area includes discussions of say rape). Voices here are Catherine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Simone de Beauvoir, Lilian Robinson, lots of famous names:

they moved to a demand for freedom for their bodies, they analyzed the role of sexuality and wanted to change the terms of sexuality and indeed the experience and said society was structured to give men power over women in each particular (the analogy would be with Marxists showing the economic basis of oppression), so a strong socialism model underlies this. It is this group of women who are called man-haters and prigs and accused of not liking sex. Well, they don’t like to be raped.

Third-phase sometimes seen as a reaction against feminism, and a qualification by women in order to deflect the backlash; here you paradoxically also find people like Linda Hirshman so insistent on getting power, be in corridors of power and angry too:

Motherhood is power once again (at least to some), if women find power in sexuality the way it’s done, that’s power (the argument against is this is no power the way it’s experienced, or only fleetingly); strong individualism (a US value), seek power for yourself and use it as you please; pro-families (best or to me most valued argued on the basis of how lower class and working women only get their self-esteem through their function in a family or as a mother); here you find women trying to reach out too beyond their class and race and ethncities.

And now post-feminism:

Refuge seeking, eclectic, sometimes seen as no feminism and a retreat, if so a sophisticated one. Examples found in Karen Joy Fowler’s Sister Noon, also Austen.

I say least about the last since the last has been least written about — as far as I know. I’d be grateful for any discussions of “post-feminism” others know of.

One more aspect of this morphing. Funny that I thought of Austen only at the end — so fundamental is she to me. I should also have brought out how we read and write differently about books and art over the years, so that not just areas of interest but how we go about them changes. Again there’s a conventional way of putting this: one takes up with say deconstruction or book history as this emerges in the scholarly world. But for me at least my engagement in such things does not come because they are there or fashionably spreading and bring up new ideas to use as perspectives. So if I nowadays bring in film studies perspectives, it’s not something external, or just that.


Emma Thompson, still my favorite actress, in a recent movie with Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harvey

So (I concluded on C18-l), I know lots about different things that are intertwined but also sometimes seem divagations … but are anything but. They are my life.

Ellen

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Standing next to the Duchess’s (Susan Hampshire) portrait, with a glimpse of the windows beyond which is the grave, Mary (Kate Nicholls asks her father why he wants to make her miserable for the rest of her life)

Dear friends and readers,

So I come to the end of a three-year journey. The first time I rewatched Pallisers 12:26 (about 2 years ago now) I cried or was near tears several times; the second time I was more composed, but nonetheless choked with moving emotions. It’s utterly different in sources from Trollope’s The Duke’s Children, where our sorrow is for the Duke’s loss, and we are kept at a distant irony by the close (the Duke will make up his mind to see Tregear’s arrogance as courage and then Gerald makes the usual mindless remark) which also includs Mary’s quiet non-hierarchical wedding.

In this film we cry for a death, we are relieved to experience a wrong righted, and watch life go on at the close in an upbeat moment as the Duke prepares to return to London political life and office.


What the Duke (Philip Latham) sees in the series’s final moments: out those windows: winners all, the two couples, Mary and Frank Treager (Jeremy Irons), Isabel Boncassen and Lord Silverbridge (Lynn Frederick and Anthony Andrews)

Just before he settles down to a new blue book and anticipating a return to Parliament and politics on a level he is comfortable with (Bungay, Roger Livesey, the last voice-over):


Dusk, anamnesic music, the Duchess’s portrait, genius loci of that place.

For these last two blogs I will provide a summary and transcripts (this blog) and conclude with a final commentary on 12:26 and the series as a whole (the next).

As Pallisers 12:25 centers its climaxes on Silverbridge and his father, so 12:26 picks up the Lady Mary story and makes her a replacement for her mother: the long big scenes in this part focus on the Duchess’s attempt (failed) to secure Mary’s independence: she dies trying to do this and tell Plantagenet she wants Mary to marry whom she loves. The sorrow and pity is she does not do this since she knows he’ll be unsympathetic, so they do not understand one another to the last. The mid-scene long crisis is Mary’s defying her father, and the final powerful one, Mrs Finn persuading him a few yards from Glencora’s grave.

12:25 is given over to concentration on Silverbridge growing up and clashes with father so 12:26 concentrates on Mary as compensation for what happened to her mother; Kate Nicholls the muse of this part.

Episode 41: Medical Shock

Sene 1) Dark night in carriage, hurrying along to Matching, Silverbridge emphatically distressed over mother’s illness; we are to remember him as the “lovely boy” of the early episodes; we have seen this wood before, but in daylight. Invented scene.

Scene 2) Matching, front room, downstairs, Mrs Finn and Duke listening to doctor. The simple cold has become pneumonia, source The Duke’s Children, Ch 1, p 4 (Penguin edition by Dinah Birch). Duchess needs to eat and keep down food to regain strength; soporific for sleep; Mrs Finn grasping the medicine tightly.

Scene 3) Glencora in her bed, scene has a tiny core in DC, Ch 2, p. 8 but wholly in character insofar as the characters are concerned even if Trollope does not practice these protracted death scenes.

Establishment shot: Glencora lying down, very ill, looks feeble, fingering a framed photograph, four more by her bedside. Mrs Finn comes in, the Duke follows.

Duchess (low voice): “What did the doctor say of me?”
Mrs Finn: “That you must eat and then you must sleep.”
Duchess: “I’m not hungry” (hollow voice)
Duke (worried, authoritative): “Oh Cora, you must try now please.”
Mrs Finn: “Please, Glencora.”
Duchess: “I can’t take … ” (she rises every so slightly, murmuring but looking as if she’s looking to say or do something but is not quite sure what it is)
Mrs Finn looks up and Duke takes soup and spoon to other side of bed
Duchess leans on him: “Planty, there is something I’ve wanted to ask you for some time … now have proper arrangements been made about money for Mary.”
Duke: “Oh, my dear, now don’t you worry about that now; you try some of this.”
Duchess (sitting up more, becoming as vehement as her strength permits): “I must worry. I know that everything has been settled for the boys, but what is to be done for our girl.”
Duke: “My dear, I propose to set aside a fund from which she’ll be paid a regular income and later on … ah … when she marries (she looks ill at these words) a suitable settlement will be made.”
Duchess (through teeth, though voice soft): “Could she not have something that is truly her own?”
Duke: “Her income will be ample.”
Duchess: “Will she be able to control her own capital? I know that I was never able to control mine.”
Duke: “My dear, the girl is … “[noises form his throat]
Duchess worse suddenly.
Mrs Finn (to her): “Here I think you should have your draft now my dear.”
Duchess having trouble breathing. She lays back.
Mrs Finn: “Quickly.”
Duke wipes her forehead, Mrs Finn gives her something by mouth; she pushes it away, but something is got down, and her hand goes to her forehead as she lays there.
Duke grasps her shoulder with his hand.
Duchess bangs on the covers. “Planty, will she be able to control her own capital?”

Duke: “My dear (his fist gets tight) the girl’s barely 19 … now we can’t place the funds in her own hands and until she’s more mature …”
Duchess: “Well, I want to be sure of one thing. That should our Mary’s happiness depend upon her marrying a poor man want of money need not prevent it.”
He looks up at Mrs Finn, and she looks at him as if to urge him to reassure the Duchess. She nods and he listens.
Duke: “Mary’s future will be cared for in every respect.”
Duchess (whispers): “You promise me.”
Duke: “Yes. I promise.”
She nods.
He leans down to kiss her.
Duke: “Now you you must rest.”
Duchess (groan) “Ah.”
He gets up to move away. He walks round her bed.
Duke: “Good night, my dearest.” Looks at Mrs Finn.
She nods and fixes the cover and pillow.
The room grows slowly darker.
Duchess: “Don’t go, Marie.”
Mrs Finn sits down on the bed, puts her hand in Duchess’s.
We leave the pair of friends together in semi-darkness.

Scene 4) Morning, Matching front room, Duke’s face asleep, in evening dress still, we hear birds, and he wakes slowly, rises, looks out window (so much by that window, now morning light through green), and the sons come in; his genuine relief, and suddenly playing father, “if they tidy up …”;

Scene 4) Glencora’s bedroom, she is up and better, eating soup, talking with Mrs Finn, dialogue and sentiments from DC, Ch 2, p. 8; vows to tell husband this very day.

Scene 5) Matching Front room, later, Duke with flowers, Gerald to him, mother better, Gerald’s immediate future told, Oxford in fall, study with tutor this summer; Silverbridge rushes in haggard; the doctor says they must come now.

Scene 6) Glencora’s bedroom; moving death scene, long as each grown child comes over to be bid adieu, and then the father. Camera catches the ring between them at the last

She says she remembers when he gave her that (1:1, mentioned in DC, Ch 46 p 294).

Her last words are her attempt to spare Mary.

Duchess: “Mary now.” Mary comes over, sits down on bed:


Her words to the effect don’t leave us

Puts her hand on her mother’s. “Yes, Mary. Listen, Planty.”
Mary: “Please stay, mama.”
Duchess: “Mary must have …”
Duke: “I’ll take care of Mary, my darling.”
Duchess: “Listen, Planty. Mary … must … ” (her eyes close). His hands are tight over hers, he kisses her hand. Watching his face we see recognition she’s gone. Camera then shows whole room from Mrs Finn’s angle.
He puts her hand down.

Episode 42: Very sad day.

Scene 7) dissolve into church top where we saw wedding bells, blue sky, procession, profoundly moving scene of burial with camera following coffin as words spoken, purple flowers on top (the colors which dominates the dresses of the women in the part — black remains Mrs Finn’s colors)

and then moves from face to face, against light blues and white: from Duke, to Silverbride, to Gerald, to Mary (holding back grief), to Bungay (old and sad), to Marie (grave look), back to Duke (grim quiet).

Scene Eight) Grave landscape dissolves to camera on the window of the room from the outside which we perpetually saw in 1:2 with Lady Glen so miserable and imprisoned; now his face glimpsed as he looks out where his wife’s grave is not far.

Scene 9) Inside Matching front room, in comes Mary, looking older, father waiting for her, says very warm, “I’ve missed you these past months”; after embrace she looks intently at him but he’s no idea, Mrs Finn and Duke left to talk; she says she’s failed, Mary pining and she must give over her charge, from DC, Ch 1, pp. 5-6 her strong reluctance); he asks her to stay so plaintively since her husband will be absent for some months yet. She agrees to.

Scene 9) Matching, front room, window seat, Mary and Mrs Finn:


Mrs Finn (Barbara Murray) and Mary rocking

Mary confides her love, source DC, Ch 2, pp. 9-14; we see Mary’s firmness and her fear “he might take against the match”; determined it will be Mr Tregear who will tell.

Scene 10) Boncassen’s front room where dance took place. Isabel walks in in purple, again joke about how he should be at commons and isn’t (works hardly at all: “we do like our politics to go rather slowly”); on the surface it’s a light flirting scene, and Silverbridge declares his love; this is very different from Trollope’s book where it’s impetuous, DC, Ch 39, p 253. In book we are still asking if he’s “in earnest”; he seems still sudden and impulsive and flirting with Mabel still.

By contrast, in film he’s rejected Mabel in previous part and is very seriously in earnest; grown up we are to feel. She begins her insistence that he must tell his father, one source, DC, Ch 70, pp 442-44: the utterance love may be a great misfortune omitted (alas), Isabel does say his father must approve of her first; Ch 53, pp. 340-41. So the book’s undercurrents of scepticism about Silverbridge’s own character, and about the loss and dismays of love are lost from the film.

Partly this is done because 12:25 has emphasizes Silverbridge’s relationship with his father, his growing up sheerly as a male; here space and time are given over to Mary versus her father, with a small left-over remnant of Lady Mabel’s loss.

Episode 43: Broken Hearts.

Scene 11) Matching front room, powerful confrontation of Mary with father. She is so firm and precisely the opposite of her mother in 1:1; with dignity and firmness she demands explanations from father who straight -on forbids. Lady Mary means to have her own way and will, DC, Ch 8, p 54 (he is a gentleman, money enough), Chapter 24, p. 149 (lines straight from this); cruelty of father from Ch 11, pp. 73-74. Lady Mary’s story as important in book as Lady Mabel’s [I can imagine Davies would have tried to give equal emphasis to Mary, Mabel and Isabel].

Establishment shot: Duke comes into familiar room and gives his coat and cane to Collingwood; Mary comes in with Mrs Finn and helps him take it off.

Mary: “Papa. Dear papa.”
Duke: “Oh Mary, my dear.”
Mrs Finn: “A pleasant surprise, Duke.”
Duke: “Yes, yes, I trust it may prove so.”
Mary taking his coat off: “Silverbridge is not come down with you?”
Duke: “No.” He looks at her.
Mary: “I suppose he’s too busy at the House of Commons” (this is supposed to be a joke but it doesn’t come out that way most of the time.)
Duke (stern tone): “Well, I am not concerned with your brother at the moment, Mary. I am more concerned …”
Mrs Finn: “Perhaps Duke, you would prefer me … (offering to go)
Duke: “Oh, no no no I’d particularly like you to remain Mrs Finn.”
He offers his arm to his daughter; she looks frightened as she gently takes it. They walk into room and sit.
Duke: “Now Mary, you come here and sit down by me.”
Mrs Finn worried look passes by them and sits on chair near by.
Duke: “Now Mary, you know Mr Tregear?”
Mary: “Of course I know him, papa, he was with us here down at Matching only a few months ago.”
Duke: “Yes, yes, well I understand that he was invited down here as a friend of Silverbridge.”
Mary: “As a friend of to us all, papa.”
Duke: “A friend perhaps. Now Mary he came to me and day or two ago in London and he told me that (eyes flitting …. ) Oh, Mary, uh is this true?”
Mary: “Yes papa.”
Duke: “Do you mean to say that you’ve engaged yourself to this young man without my knowledge or approval?”
Mary looks back to Mrs Finn.
Mary: “Or course you were to have been asked, papa.”
Duke: “Yes, yes, so I have been. What sort of casual self-confidence (sputters) what I … was it a matter of course would I agree to such a trivial request? Well I’ll tell you this … (rises, hits thigh) as a matter of course well it’s impossible. Now you understand that, do you not?”
Mary: “No, papa. (shakes her head). I do not understand it” (firm, calm, quiet)
Duke: “Then you will begin to understand it from this instant. Now this engagement is out of the question. And I will not have it thought of.”
Mary: “But papa I should not have allowed Mr Tregear to go to you unless I loved him.”
Duke: “Well, then you conquer your love (rough voice). It’s disgraceful.”
Mrs Finn (rueful, doubting voice): “Disgraceful, Duke?”
Duke: “Yes, Mrs Finn, I am sorry to use such a phrase to my own daughter, but it is so (shaking head intensely). However (to Mary) if you will undertake to be guided by me and if you promise never to see him again, then I will if not forget it, then at least pardon it. And be silent. Oh, I will excuse it (he has risen and is walking around the back of the couch so we see Duchess’s portrait now) because you’re young and because you were thrown imprudently in his way.”

She turns and follows him with her body and looks up at him beseechingly yet firmly.

Duke: “Well, Mary.”
Mary: “How can I? When of all the people in the world I love him the best.”

He looks taken aback, hand on forehead shielding his face, walks by, rubs himself, sits down next to her again.

Duke: “Oh, Mary (shakes head, murmurs) Do you not know he is not fit to be your husband?”
Mary; “No, papa.”
Duke: “Well then I don’t think that you can have thought very much either about it or his position or mine?”
Mary: “He is a gentleman, papa.”

Duke: “But so is my private secretary, oh there is not a clerk for one of our public offices does not consider himself to be a gentleman. Well, the curate of the parish is a gentleman (noise), eh, the apothecary who issues a drought for you. Now then Mr Tregear oh he may write Esquire after his name with the rest of ‘em, but he is no more than a penniless loafer [the loafer is Silverbridge we know]
Mary [indignant]: “He has a good degree from Oxford.”
Duke: “And he has nothing else.”
Mary (reproachful): “Papa! as you well know, Mr Tregear is a gentleman in the same sense as yourself or Silverbridge. So there can be no objection as to his rank and as for money, well there need be no difficulty there because I’ve got enough for us both.”

He looks at her.

Mrs Finn’s anxious voice heard: “My dear [cautioning) you will have only what your father chooses to give you."
Mary: "He can give it without trouble."
Duke: "Nevertheless, it is mine to give or mine to withhold."
Mary: "I understand that much of it was mama's."
Duke (enraged): "You will allow me to understand about all that." (He gets up from couch.) "Now, Mary , you will promise me that there shall now be an end to this Mr Tregear."

Mary shakes a little, also gets up and walks and turns. "I love him. and I've told him so. And I will I must be true. I cannot bear to give you pain, but in this matter I mean to have my way."
Duke: "You mean to have your way?"
Mary: "Certainly I do. Papa, I shall never marry while you forbid it, but you can never make me say I do not love Mr Tregear, and if you do not yield at last I shall think you very cruel."

He stands off further. Walks off, then faces her as we do (camera lengthens from her and we see her standing by her mother's picture.

Mary: "Why should you wish to make me unhappy for the rest of my life." She bows low and walks out past him (see still which opens this blog).

Scene 12) Parliament, again Sir Orlando Drought seen downstairs, we are in upstairs gallery with Duke, and Silverbridge comes over to join him; sources Silverbridge with Duke in gallery above Commons; you ought to listen to your Chief, DC, Ch 26, p. 161; Silverbridge dismayed and says he cannot talk about it here sir, so

Scene 13) Duke's study at Carlton Terrace, Duke and Silverbridge; Silverbridge says how Drought has asked him to speak to get back at father, and won't have it, DC, Ch 67, p 423 (told to Tregear rather than the father), Ch 78, p. 497 (Silverbridge tells father), and rest of dialogue between father and son and much taken from it, ch 67, pp. 424-26. The jejeune political talk about how rich have to share added; Silverbridge's attitudes have changed slowly and usually indicated in quips to Tregear or advice ot his brother. "I won't rush it sir." Two men so confident in position in life, and now with one another:

But father again brings up Mabel, he's inviting her down to Matching and Silverbridge doesn't have heart to tell him except that he will have something to say soon, idea in Ch 51 (the get-together of them all does happen in DC).

Scene 14) Matching front room, Duke and Mrs Finn looking out at Mary gazing at mother's grave:

Another conversation about Mary, sources, from Duke and Lady Cantripp, DC, Ch 24, p. 151 , Ch 50, p. 316 also Duke and Mrs Finn's scenes from DC, ch 41, p 265 becomes Mrs Finn arguing on Mary's behalf: she "suffers frequently and terribly from sick headaches;" "surely you do not wish to break her heart"; he admits how his refusal to let his daughter marry a commoner is contradictory to his political creed; he says he is determined, so now she brings forward her final ammunition: she tells him the Duchess gave it her blessing.

Episode 44: Acceptance.

Scene 15) The club, Silverbridge and Dolly, source: Dolly's desire to marry Isabel brought to an end in DC, Ch 69, p. 435-36 when Silverbridge told and easily sweeps the older lower rank man aside, Dolly does tell that Tifto did it, last we see of Dolly whom series opened up with.

Scene 16) Boncassen's sitting room in London, Isabel sitting reading, Silverbridge to her. Sources: really very short, the briefest of annotations for this (as opposed to book where these romance scenes are protracted) and an imitation of Framley Parsonage bit brought in. Isabel will accept Silverbridge only when the Duke takes her by the hand. See DC Ch 70, p 444, Isabel says his father must approve of her first; Ch 53, pp. 340-41.

Scene 17) London room of Lady Mabel Grex, Silverbridge comes to put an end to it, again from DC, Ch 59, p. 377-78 and forbid her and say he'll support her (curious addition to Trollope: you'll never want); Silverbridge visits Mabel to tell her to keep away too:


The last of Mabel (Anna Carteret)

Again very brief for the film's interest is in

Scene 18) Matching front room, Silverbridge versus Duke. The major sources are DC, Ch 60, pp. 384-87 (Duke told it's all over with Lady Mabel Grex, Ch 61, pp. 386ff, Ch 71. The scene also dramatizes the inward distinctions Duke makes when talking of equality to Isabel Boncassen, DC, Ch 48, pp 310-11; and the same argument against loss of rank in Ch 60. It comes early in the novel in Mary's story, and in the novel it's Mabel's inward life we witness at the last.

So the basic chapter is called "bone of my bone" and this phrase is repeated hoarsely here, only here Silverbridge counters with liberal thought (while Mary did simply on the grounds of her love), which again brings forward the idea that the privileged govern that others might be prosperous and above all free ... Ch 15, letter on p. 99 (used in 12:25, episode 37, after Silverbridge's first win). How good of them. In the final moment the camera's close-ups present Silverbridge facing his father and juxtaposed to portrait of Lady Glen.

Episode 45: A New Age.

Scene 19) The priory ruins, Mrs Finn and Duke walking, Mrs Finn's eloquence to the Duke, and his gratitude to her DC, Ch 1, p 4, Ch 41, p. 265-66, Ch 66, pp 416-418 (Burgo Fitzgerald never mentioned specifically anyone but Duchess).

Establishment shot: we are inside the whitened ruined priory and hear birds cawing.

We glimpse Mrs Finn walking with a cane, a grim desolate Duke also with a cane next to her; she seems to hesitate to turn and talk until camera fully on her (in the book it's the study)

Mrs Finn: "If it if it can be of any comfort to you, Duke (soft), the Duchess would never have wanted Silverbridge to marry Mabel Grex. She said so often before she died.
Duke: "I am determined in this, Mrs Finn. Now would Cora have wanted him to marry Miss Isabel Boncassen?"
Mrs Finn "She wanted her fine son to be free to choose whom he should love, and Duke, she wanted the same freedom for her daughter."
He turns (close up): "Why?" (whispered)

Shot of the two of them.

Duke: "Why didn't Cora tell me sooner. Why did she deceive me, Mrs Finn?"
Mrs Finn: "She did not deceive you, Duke Have I not made myself clear? She was trying to tell you the very moment that she died. Duke, of late I have been with Mary daily, almost hourly. I will not say that this will kill her now while she is young, but a broken heart may bring the sufferer to the grave after a lapse of many years.

He turns away with twisted look on face. We watch him walk away and see them medium shot, their whole bodies at a medium distance from us

She comes up to him again and from another angle begins again:

Mrs Finn: "How will it be with her, Duke, if you should see your daughter live beside you like a ghost for the next twenty years. If you should see her die faded and withered before her time, all her life gone without a joy [romancing marriage, children presented as the only happiness, not seeing there are and were then others] because she loved a man whose position in life was displeasing to you. In doing your duty to your position, Duke, can you be satisfied that you are doing your duty to your child?”

Again he turns, walks away.

Mrs Finn: “Shall I leave you, now?”
Duke: “Yes, perhaps it would be better.”

We see her turn and look so elegant from the side, poignant, yearning to make an impression, respectful

Duke (tight lips): “Whether I agree or disagree, I will not try to tell you now (thick voice), but this at least must be said, I owe you a debt of gratitude which I cannot express in words.”
Mrs Finn (shakes her head): “Your grace …”
Duke: “Now all that you have trouble yourself to think and feel in this matter, all that true friendship has compelled you to say to me, I shall not easily forget. My children are indeed fortunate in securing the love of such a friend as you.” [book has him referring only to one child and that Mary]

Silence.

Duke: “And now you may go to Mary (he turns) you will go to Mary, if you please, and you tell her that Mr Tregear may come here as soon as he may wish.”
Mrs Finn smiles. But she presses on: “Your grace … and Silverbridge … what of him … ?”
Duke breathes in hard (close up, some anger at this pushing): “Madam, Silverbridge is my heir, the next Duke of Omnium. I shall decide that for myself on my own.”

Both shot together; she curtsies, not ironic but respectful; she moves away. The camera on his face shows him so hurt (silent close up).

Scene 19) Now camera shifts to focus on Duchess’s grave, same blue sky, same day, his shadow is outlined on the wall, and then we see him walking there (from the back), then we watch him look down at the grave, face dark, then the camera on the gravestone and we see the carved names, and then back to close up of sorrow

Scene 20) Matching front room: from resolution DC, Ch 72, 454-57, which scene includes Duke’s saying how he had a hard time accepting Isabel; Duke gives Isabel ring he gave his wife; DC, Ch 72, p 456. The camera first on Duchess’s portrait, and then the Duke below looking at that, Silverbridge wary with Isabel looking scared behind him enter, the touching scene where he gives the ring, thus coming full circle with 1:1.

Scene 21) Quick scene out of room, in the hall, they kiss and steal away.

Scene 22) Back to Matching, front room, he looks at Duchess’s picture once again, closes box quietly, we hear birds, he goes over to bow windows and looks out with stern face.

Scene 23) From a distance, through the windows with Duke

we see before the ruins, near the grave, the two happy couples (Duchess fostered), all greens, greys, and purples; women kiss, men shake hands; back to he smiles as he lets go, picks up letter (DC, Ch 78, p 496 a narration of Mr Monk asking Duke and Duke finally assenting) and we hear voice-over of Bungay now responding to an apparent yes letter that happened between Episode 44, Scene 18 and this. Bungay delighted Duke going to join. Our long-time friend, the Duke sits where we can see our heroine’s picture and the window, and the series theme music starts for one last time as he’s reading a blue book (see still at opening of blog).


Her gravestone

Next: final commentary

Ellen

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Duchess (Susan Hampshire), having painfully made her way to her mirror, looks at old photos. Archetypal motif for women in later life, last seen by me in Bergman’s Saraband

Dear Friends and readers,

Two days ago I resumed my journey through the 26 part 1974 BBC Palliser series, with a summary, commentary and transcripts from the first half of 12:25: The Duchess’s dying begins. How she is the heroine of the series as a whole.

We saw how The Prime Minister transitions in 12:24 to The Duke’s Children. Then central to these last two parts, 12:25 and 12:26 is the family life of the Pallisers, and especially the relationship of the two parents to their adult children. Those modern films which treat relationships between generations tend to be comic and emphasize younger children; it is brave and fruitful for the viewer for the film-makers to have stayed true to Trollope’s concern with how the adult fates of their children deeply affect their parents’ sense of their own identity and success in life.

Tonight I go on to the second half of the hour where the Duchess appears more briefly, and Mary’s story is held off until 12:26. Here the clashes between Silverbridge and the Duke dominate. We had just reviewed Silverbridge’s strong if courteous rejection of Lady Mabel Grex, and reached the part’s climactic scenes leading up to Derby Run (Episode 38).

Scene 10. The Club, The Duke’s Children, Ch 17, pp. 105-112 (some details picked up from this earlier scene of egging Silverbridge on to bed), Ch 43, pp. 276-79 (Penguin edition by Dinah Birch).


Tifto (John Ringham) on table, proposing toasts, angle of vision Silverbridge’s (Anthony Andrews) head; we see Tregear (Jeremy Irons) nearby as ever; and Dolly Longstaffe (George Pickering). The image remembers one by Millais from Orley Farm where a sleazy salesman mounts a table.

A famous hinge-point scene from the book: Tifto needles Silverbridge into betting not just (the film amounts are less) 200 but 40,000 pounds by egging him about his desire to please his straight-laced father. Tregear (in the film sensible, caring) tries to stop it. Silverbridge had promised his father to stop betting altogether. The actor playing Tifto’s face an enigma, mean and aggressive:

yet astounded at the sum and suddenly worried. Those who’ve read the novel (and film-adaptations take into account such viewers too) know Tifto’s planning to fix this race but had not counted on such a big sum; it’s too big; it’ll make a splash.

The egging on of Silverbridge about his attachment to his father is not in original scene but makes much sense in terms of this hour. Again Frank featured in the scene as he is not in the book. Dolly throws his champagne glass into the hearth at end.


Playing tough guys

Scene 11: at the stable, we see Tifto in shed with horse, to him Silverbridge and Isabel. Trollope is much harder on Silverbridge and more understanding of Tifto (throughout this is so); see The Duke’s Children, Ch 43, pp. 278-79): Silverbridge snubs Tifto when he comes to his room in the morning and it’s after that Tifto lames the horse. This omitted from film.

Here Silverbridge and Isabel come to stall the next morning where they find Tifto. We hear him murmuring to horse. Tifto not that respectful to a girl without a title, so we are reminded of the effect her lack of rank might have on common minds.

Scene 12: The expensive, luxuriously equipped tent, complete with gourmet cakes and champagne. From DC, Ch 44, p 280, Ch 44, p. 282-4, Gerald being late back belongs to earlier incident, DC, Ch 18, pp. 110-14. So this is basically wholly invented pair of scenes because in original much is narrated, but what is dramatized both times is Silverbridge’s encounter with his father afterwards. The film-makers were delightfully inventive over the luxuries, Frank and Dolly and Gerald and again Frank worrying over Gerald champagne, carving delicacies in a cake mound:


Dolly, Frank Tregear, Gerald (Michael Cochrane) to them

Great scene from which the still of Dolly and Frank eating cake is circulated:
All at the races; Gerard excited naive young man. Such a great sum and they are intent about it. Then in comes
Silverbridge with flat distressed face. PM can’t even run; he was hobbled. A nail produced. Silverbridge is supposed to be admirable in his saying, well, let’s go see the race and then have our dinner.

This, though, is not the only reading: in the film at the club a little later Tregear tells Dolly that Silverbridge was shamed into this; Dolly replies he was drinking hard.

Scene 13: Back to the club with stuffed familiar bear, from DC, Ch 17, pp. 110-112, Ch 44, pp. 283-84 (matter about nail as narrated). Frank added again shown trying to help a very drunk and silly Gerald make it, again he’s sober, serious earnest young man, responsible. Dolly comes in with information about Tifto and nail. Silverbridge does gather Gerald’s things and push him off with Frank; the re-entry of Gerald with story of lame cab horse is an overdone absurdity (situation comedy stuff).

Much of this scene too is wholly original or semi-original, new and is superb. Silverbridge is more distressed about his brother than the money and the scene dissolves with an overvoice from the Duke as the Duke says to Silverbridge: “What do you know about this?” It’s the
letter from Cambridge sending Gerard down permanently.

Episode 39: Bad News. Scene 14: Duke’s study, Carlton terrace.

I’ve transcribed this crucial scene:

Duke confronting Silverbridge with letter sending Gerald down, DC, Ch 18, pp. 114-15 (Silverbridge tries to get them to take brother back), Ch 18, pp. 115-166 (scene with father over Gerland), Ch 45, pp. 289-93 (scene with father over Derby losses), all combined

1 Establishment shot: Duke by mantelpiece with document — a letter

Duke: “What do you know about this?”
Silverbridge takes letter with intense strain on his face; soft voice: “Gerald went up to see the Derby, sir, and he missed the evening train.”
Duke: “The college tutor tells me here all undergraduates were expressly ordered not to go to these races. Not one [exemption?] was issued for that day.”
Silverbridge: “I s’pose not sir.”
Duke: “So your brother has been sent down, sir, altogether, and so has he profited from your example [bitter grief in his voice] (turns impatiently from son, with a noise) … now did you persuade him to go to Epsom, Sir?”
Silverbridge (turning to the father): “I did not discourage him, sir.”
Duke: “Though you knew the orders that had been given?”
Silverbridge: “Well I thought that there would be no risk, sir. If he could get back the same night. [Pause]. I don’t s’pose it does any good my saying this to you, sir: I never was so sorry for anything in my life … I feel as if I could go and hang myself, sir” (his head way down as bowed in distress).
Duke (grim-faced frontal view): “That’s absurd and unmanly. Oh you’d better go, sir, I suppose you’ll want to be at your racing again with your Major Tifto.”
Silverbridge: “No, father, I told you I’d give all that up after the Derby and so I shall.”
Duke: “Oh yes yes I apologize. No reason to doubt you’d keep your promise.”
Silverbridge: “There is one promise I’ve not kept, sir.”
Duke (an old man sound): “Yeah?”
Silverbridge: “Oh your grace, I’ve lost a huge sum of money over the Derby (tears in his voice, never crying), more than 40,000 pounds.”
Duke (close up to his face as it registers). He mutters something. (Turns his face away and sits): “My children will drive me to the grave.”
Silverbridge (trying to reason, very high pitched voice): “I was tricked for it, sir, I think … well, I was called a coward for betting low … sir, he should have won … We could have have won … I know … (voice breaking, while sitting down next to father, he begins to rock) …

Duke: “Could have? should have? you know it is known to all men that all [this?] pursuit is governed by the flimsiest of chances. And on such a chance (turns) you have wagered 40,000 pounds.”
Silverbridge (rising from chair): “There is talk of foul play, sir.”
Duke: “Is there?”
Silverbridge: “I only said that so you may think me a little less to blame. There is no proof and I cannot haggle with men to whom I owe whom for all I can tell are honest within their code … either the money must be paid paid or my honor destroyed.”
Duke: “And if yours, sir, then mine. Oh, the thing is quite clear, the money must be paid. Uh, I shall have Mr Fothergill pay it at once.”

Duke goes over to his desk, sits down and writes the check (or letter) and Silverbrige begins to pace a little towards the door, walks around the chair.

Silverbridge: “What shall I say, sir? what would you have me do for you?”
Duke: “Well, you’re done with racing … are you? … and Major Tifto.”
Silverbridge; “Indeed indeed I have, sir.”
Duke: “If you are cured of the evil, the money is nothing.”
Silverbridge (face widening with gratitude and respect): “Oh, sir.”

Duke sprinkles sand across document, folds it, stands up. “Now, you take that note to Mr Fothergill and you tell him the details that he must know. From this moment on, let us never speak another word about it.” (Grim determined face on Duke, walks slightly away).

Silverbridge: “Sir, Gerald, sir, he’ll be horribly cut up for you as well as himself [Silverbridge knows Gerald would not be cut up for himself] … You won’t be too hard on him when he comes to see you?”
Duke: “I am in no mood to cut the fatted calf for Gerald, sir, but I will try to behave towards him in the same spirit that has prompted you to plead for him.”

Silverbridge silent, walks about a bit, relieved tone: “I do not know how to thank you, sir” (smiling with face now softened with love as well as respect): “You’re such a brick. Standing to a fella after a rotten business like this.”
Duke: “A father should always stand to a fella as you put it, sir. A fellow should always stand to his father [they stand facing each other]. Well, there might be a way in which you could thank me.”
Silverbridge: “Yes, father.”
Duke: “You remember our conversation the other day about … well … about Lady Mabel Grex?”
Silverbridge (slight blench): “Oh, I remember, sir.”
Duke: “Ummm. Well I thought a lot about it how much I wish to see you settled, and how deeply I could love Lady Mabel Grex as my daughter.”

[In fact this dialogue could and would not have taken place with the Duchess still alive, but it passes muster in the way deviations from characters do for the sake of plots in novels.]

Silverbridge looks down.

Duke: “Now if anything were to happen, you would … uh … you would let me know?”
Silverbridge (quiet tone): “Yes, of course, sir.”

Duke’s face shaking slightly, the result of the emotions gone through.
Silverbridge presenting smiling front but very firm look on his face. He is growing up well.

This becomes the central scene of this episode. Anthony Andrews is brilliant as strained ashamed defensive (suddenly excitedly defending himself) son and Latham just perfect as the Duke. Indeed, he must have been the Duke in his mind by this time. Lines like, Duke: “Did you persuade him to go,” Silverbridge [telling truth] “I did not discourage him.” Duke did you know about rules and Silverbridge admitting he thought he could get his brother back in time. Just right for types.

Silverbridge saying with intensity of feeling that he has never felt so bad about anything in his life and would like to go hang himself, receiving hard words instead “That is absurd and unmanly.” Just right for era.

In the year 1995 Austen’s Darcy was made sympathetic by turning him
into an openly emotional vulnerable man; the Duke of Raven’s series would not understand this or like it. But note that Silverbridge is this type, so he anticipates the recent male of sensibility.

And then in a hoarse voice, “I suppose you will go betting with Tifto again.” And now Silverbridge must tell about bet. 40,000. The camera close up are startling and stunning. The duke says: “My children will drive me to the grave.” That’s in Trollope but it’s also after Mary has insisted she loves Tregear and after of course the Duchess’s death.

It’s then that Raven’s Silverbridge gets excited: “I was tricked into, Sir, I was called a coward for betting low. Oh, sir, he should have won [and a stream of words]; we are seein ghim from Duke’s eye. Silverbridge: “There is talk of foul play, Sir” Duke: “Is there?” But if Silverbridge means they should litigate, he cannot “haggle” especially as Silverbridge says his honor at stake so both their honors and the Duke sits down and writes a check for this enormous amount with a note to Fothergill (still in wings after all these years), saying if this ends “this evil” (the betting) the money is nothing

They begin to come closer together as Silverbridge is so grateful (you are a “brick” sir).

But to my mind when the Duke says “and let there never be another word about it” is the finest moment of all. This is true nobility and generosity of spirit.

It gives Silverbridge a chance to ask his father to be kind to Gerard who is described as “horribly cut up.”

Moving scene continues with them standing there, and saying things like a fellow should stand should stand by a fellow and a father by a fellow. But again Silverbridge beginning to turn into a boy and when father starts to talk of Lady Mabel he evades his father.

The one thing missing in this film and in the novel about Silverbridge’s young manhood before marriage (and maybe afterward too): there should have been open sexual encounters, casual and demeaning in Silverbridge’s life. There is a hint (when he visits the opera singer) in Trollope’s novel, but only the barest hint. Perhaps Davies would have given us a silent shot of this (as he does give us scenes not dramatized in Austen but presented as occurring between chapters).

Yet this is a taboo subject even today (or in 1974) and perhaps the film-makers would not produce sympathy for a culture where Silverbridge was using women. Trollope excises the sex so we will not think it of him; Raven and filmmakers had hints of gay sex while in Venice but have dropped them wholly. The problem is too much sex might be put in for its own sake today and we lose the ethical perspective.

Popular drama has its price.

Scene 15) Matching, Duchess’s Boudoir, she with Duke who has come to tell of her of Silverbridge and Gerald’s misadventure. Wholly invented.

When the Duke leaves, and Mrs Finn takes his place, the Duchess underlines the point of the Duke’s distress: what bothers him is his son should lower himself to try to make money off others, money he has no need of.

It’s includes sequence of her getting up, has a hard time standing, walking, over to mirror, nearly crying as she looks at her photo, and then painfully making her way back to couch:

stopping only to look at some momento (perhaps of Burgo Fitzgerald after all).

Enter Mrs Finn, with “nice soup.” Lines taken from scenes of father and son (“his fine son should have sought to win money that he didn’t really need”); Duchess convinced Mabel doesn’t love Silverbridge, “she’s desperate,” scene ends with her declaring she must pack, children must be “free” “free to choose” and lands on the floor:

A strong contrast to hectic gaiety with which next scene begins.

********************

Episode 40: Romantic Woes

Scene 16: London, vestibule outside Boncassen’s home, Silverbridge enters in elegant evening dress, into dance party, sources: the Dance itself from DC, Ch 31, p. 199; the conflicted nasty crack of Lady Mabel, while dancing with Silverbridge (“ill-natured”), very self-destructive is from DC, Ch 39, pp. 251-52, Ch 54, p 345, where she taunts him with Isabel’s Americanness and her mother. In Trollope’s book Mabel says she must save Silverbridge from marrying down and an American (Ch 40, p 254-55), he walks off at Ch 28, pp. 180-81; for where Dolly makes up to Isabel, see DC, Ch 32, 203-7, Ch 33, pp. 211-12.

It seems to me telling that one of the stills of Silverbridge walking stiffly alongside Mabel is a close imitation of numerous contemporary illustrations (Johnny Eames and Lily Dale is only the best known) where the troubled but dignified hero and heroine walk along parallel side-by-side

They are the pair crowned with the prestigious wedding in Trollope. The one with genuine feeling is Trollope’s Mary’s with Tregear, a breakfast and going away which quietly ends the book.

So, in the film we are at a fancy party given by Boncassens. This is a long scene equivalent to the opening political ones where we move from couple to couple, with Isabel as frivolous bell of the ball, chased by Dolly (nefariously); we see Silverbridge dance with an embittered Lady Mabel, but we are not given any reason to sympathize with her even in the dialogue with Miss Casse while in the Duke’s children she is given long concluding scenes of authentic distress with both Silverbridge and Tregear (see DC, Chs 73, 77).


Putting a brave face on it rather than a gothic alienated one.

For my part I rather liked Trollope’s Isabel for her bright sparkling and I don’t Raven’s preening self-proud chaste young lady, Isabel (Lynn Frederick herself had a chequered career which brings out a hard side of her we feel in the films):


Isabel Boncassen (Lynn Frederick) dancing to “Dixie.”

Trollope may have had his Kate Field in mind; Raven has nothing like this.

When Raven’s Isabel turns Dolly off, I’m probably supposed to admire her; sigh, I just despise him. I don’t admire Silverbridge’s taste (she’s mostly vacuous in the film) and surmise that those who say Trollope left space for another sequel, for another novel (where perhaps this marriage would be rocky) may be right.

And so suddenly to the two brothers comes a messenger; the Duchess is
ill and father says to return to Matching at once. And so we are come to the Duchess’s death and end of the series.

Ellen

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