Archive for November, 2009

Eddie (Henry Fonda) and Joan (Sylvia Sidney) on honeymoon, frogs just outside of vision

Dear Friends,

A couple of nights ago I watched a film I can best characterize as filled with a gripping lunacy: Fitz Lang’s 1937 You Only Live Once , screenplay Gene Towne and C. Graham Baker, a United Artists production by Wally Wanger. The still above shows our hero, Eddie Taylor (Henry Fonda) and heroine (Sylvia Sidney) on their honeymoon; just beyond them the artifical lake may be seen fully and on it will appear first one and then a pair of frogs. Eddie says of these frogs they are liable to have their legs cut or pulled off. And then shot close up, our lovers identify with them, until one jumps off the pad. Our lovers discuss them:

Eddie: “Know something about frogs? If one dies, the other dies.”
Joan: “That’s funny. Why?”
Eddie; “I don’t know. Except they just can’t live without each other.”
Joan (tenderly): “Just like Romeo and Juliet.”

Staring frogs are not romantic to look at, even with lyrical music in the background, turning into a minor key. Alas, our lovers are not permitted to enjoy their first night upstairs, as the (semi-imbecilic) landlord discovers Eddie is a ex-convict and insists they leave immediately.

The story is of a man, Eddie, who has been convicted of serious crimes three times; his loyal fiancee, Joan, convinces her boss who is in love with her, a D.A., Stephen Whitney (played by Barton MacLane or often played such roles) to wrest freedom for Eddie, but no one in their society will give him a chance. So Whitney gets a job for Eddie driving a truck, but when Eddie is an hour late showing up the first moment, the man takes the opportunity to fire him, with words of scorn. Eddie and Joan have rented a house and he must make money to support them, and no one else will give him a job; he crawls back to the man who fired him who proceeds to needle and sneer at him. Desperate he calls Joan, and tells her not to worry; he will meet her soon. He must “go straight” for another crime will land him in jail for life.

Eddie looking earnest, honest, sincere, impeccably well-meaning middle class

But we then watch Eddie in a slum-like room looking out a window, near him an ex-convict friend, Monk, lies on a bed smoking. They are in the semi-darkness as they wait for something. We then watch a crime where we see bombs thrown, a massacre of people, and Wells Fargo truck carrying a lot of money is stolen from.

It appears there are two people committing this crime: we see through slits in one car a pair of eyes, and we see another person jumping out of the car. Eddie is blamed because his hat is found in the vicinity. He returns home to Joan, and claims he is innocent, and was not on the scene of the crime. At no point in the movie does Joan question Eddie, and at first appears to believe in his total innocence. He wants to flee the country, but she (believing in justice) persuades him, he will get fair justice and to flee will prevent them from ever living a reasonable life.

Of course Eddie does not get a fair trial. The night before the decision is handed down, we see three front pages were printed while the publisher waited:

He is going to be executed, and she comes to visit him. The scenes are expressionist of a caged nightmare:

Sinister still

Stange eerie lights play on the faces of the two people who are permitted only to speak through frames to one another:

Convinced he is going to die, she tries to get a gun to him; failing this, she gives it to the movie’s benign Catholic priest figure, Father Dolan (William Gargan), a ubiquitous type in US movies of the 1930s-50s, who does manage to get it to Eddie after he fakes illness. We see the prison wardens want to save him so he can be executed in time; they put him in a bed, and Father Dolan plants the gun under his pillow. He jumps out and threatens to kill a hostage, and is about to escape the prison, when a pardon comes through: he has been declared innocent after all. Like Joan did before him, Father Dolan appears to tell Eddie he should give himself up. Eddie does not believe the Father and growing hysterical as the Father nears him, Eddie kills the Father.

Eddie then flees to where he knows Joan is living with her sister, Bonnie (Jean Dixon). Against her sister’s advice, she clings to Eddie and they drive off together. The rest of the film shows them fleeing the authorities, more and more desperate, hungrier, looking worse and worse, sleeping in train cars, hounded by wanted ads, at the same time as they appear to grow close. They rob, and steal, shoot people, but it’s not clear that they kill anyone. They are no Bonnie and Clyde, and assert intense romantic tender companionship for one another:

A famous still.

She gets pregnant and we are to believe gives birth by herself in a barn or some garage or abandoned building.

Eddie comforting the blissful Joan

She and Eddie risk meeting her sister again and leaving “Baby” with Bonnie, and flee again — she, over her sister’s protests. They are driving to the Canadian border. Just before they get there, they stop for gas, food, and through a window someone spots her at a cigarette machine. There is an award of $10,000 for anyone calling to help capture them:

They drive on and are now in a dark wood; she sees a light which they soon realize was a police car. They are surrounded and cornered. She is weak with hunger and from the childbirth and he attempts to carry her to safety across this (mythical) border. She dies in his arms. He turns round to see the others gaining on him, and then turns back and keeps running. He is shot through the back, but not before he thinks he sees Father Dolan and cries out as he starts to run to a light he sees in the distance.

Except for that light in the distance, this scene reminded me of another great stark raving romance, this one about human evil and degradation, Liliana Cavani and Barbara Alberti’s 1974 Night Porter where as Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling attempt to flee a group of Nazis they are shot through the back with a round of fire.

It might be said I need not offer any further explanation. Surely this is enough to explain why the film is fascinating. Well, no. I could see it’s corny: good young man never given a chance; man trapped by fate; loving woman cannot save him; jejeune dialogue; unconvincing settings. Thin egalitarian rebellion where the “bosses” have it in for vulnerable, no questioning of any values the people live by so empty.

So it’s not superfluous to examine the film to see what makes it powerful still. Centrally it’s that Lang had taken the situation to its conclusion and not blenched. He reminded me of Trollope in He Knew He Was Right where the husband’s mind becomes deranged. In addition, it has a European expressionist feel: the use made of light, darkness, the frames, the texture of the things (as in shop windows, in cars, the street, on desks, in rooms), and bizarre symbols (like the frogs), the eroticism (after all our lovers make love), and potential violence about to erupt.

A super essay by George M. Wilson in Narration in Light takes us further in understanding this film. What follows is my understanding of what Wilson says about the film. What makes the film adult is that we are encouraged by what we see to doubt the motives and sanity of our lovers. Eddie first. On first viewing, the viewer is inclined at first to disbelieve Eddie, but then when he is declared innocent, to think him innocent. But wait, a second viewing shows there were two men at the scene of the crime, his hat was there. He is a liar. Whose were the second set of eyes:

He has committed three serious crimes before. Further, at various points in the film, he goes slightly beserk, shouts, screams, appears to loathe and distrust everyone around him. We are never told what his background was — we are to take it on faith in most of the films he was a victim of poverty but we don’t know this. He keeps saying he loves Joan but of what exactly this love consists we don’t know.

Joan is not just a loving committed loyal woman. She is fanatic, shows an extremity of commitment to say the least. Wherever she goes she sees goodness and attributes the best motives to everyone, and every time the worst motives and behavior ensues, except for that DA who is in love with her. Throughout the film though he, Bonnie, and just about everyone says she’s crazy. “All mixed up.” There is a hysteria here which takes us well beyond the kind of love captured in Elizabeth Bowen’s “Outside of lies the junkyard of what does not matter”

Sylvia Sidney in another similar role

As Joan lies dying, she says “I’d do it all over again. Charlotte Rampling never says that.

People apparently complain about the ending of the film. It appears to have one of these embarrassing maudlin glimpses of heaven. As Eddie dies, he sees a light or Father Dolan in the distance. A voice cried out “You’re free, Eddie.” But perhaps this is a final madness. In the film one man tells another that he knew a “man who once shot his own dog right through the heart.” That could be a reference to Father Dolan. And how can we say a film asserts there is a heavenly redemption and life after death whose title is You Only Live Once?

Wilson says Eddie is someone who does not “fit” into the working order of things so he is flung out, reviled, and the vision of the film is one of despair. The film’s characters are blind, caught in situations they have no grasp of. He doesn’t mention it but I was struck by the semi-dopiness of the person who phoned in the information which led to our lovers’ deaths. He was sleeping with a cat and the cat looked puzzled the way cats do.

Wilson is bothered that Joan doesn’t name her baby as if “anything outside the demands of their primitive life” together becomes “irrelevant and unintelligible.” I can understand it. Names don’t matter in this meaningless environment.

I suppose the particulars of whatever interpretation one ends up with don’t matter all that much. What matters is like in a written novel (say) there is a distance between what is seen literally in the work and what we can deduce, a kind of thorough-going unreliability. Now it seems to me when films do this, they gain the ambiguity of real life. This kind of adult or psychological and epistemological opaqueness is only now becoming common in films.

As for the lunacy of it all: it’s pictured in the use of moonlight, the textured used of black and white, and it reminds me of the madness of Max Ophuls’s 1948 Letter from an Unknown Woman.

Lisa (Joan Fontaine) and Brand (Louis Jordaine) see dreams outside railway car, Letter from an Unknown Woman


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Blanche and Mitch

Dear Friends,

Last week (Tuesday night, November 17th to be exact), we (Jim, Izzy and I) had a real treat. We saw Cate Blanchett as Blanche in Live Ullmann’s production of Williams’s Streetcar Named Desire at the Kennedy Center. This is a Sydney Theatre production: many of the people were from Australia; and it was conceived originally a few years ago by Blanchett and Andrew Upton.

So course Blanchett didn’t do it alone; plays which hang their merit on a single star are weak on stage. This was ensemble art too. As Stanley, Joel Edgerton was powerful and almost (though I admit not quite) made me forget Brando’s take; Tom Richards played Mitch powerfully, and as when Carl Maldon did it, this role and character emerged as just as central as Stella, more so even in the second scene when he comes to try to intimate, bully and insult. Jim thought this second scene between her and Mitch the most powerful of the play, so it was sympathetic to male vulnerability and understanding of its twisted cruel behaviors to women even more vulnerable and hurt.

What was remarkable to me was how central and dominating the stage space Blanche was. Ullmann made her the indubitable tragic figure in the center. I’ve had students (males each time) come away with the idea that she’s the horror, and on one memorable occasion a student gave a talk where he quoted “the Napoleonic code:” his own sexual agenda (macho-ism) and resentment of a women who has been sexually free was startlingly unashamed. His talk was about how Stan was deprived and Blanche “the guest from hell.” what a relief when he and Stella finally got rid of her. I sat through it as teacher and didn’t say much; I left it to the students who had understood the play (enough did).

Near me in the audience last night I still heard one guy say, well in the first act she victimized him.the gender faultline leads people to take sides here. In this production the man who played Mitch was crying in the last scene I’ll mention. It had a strange effect.

Stella (Robin McLeavy) and Blanche, the two sisters

Well, Blanche didn’t victimize Stan in the second act of this one. The birthday scene where Stan clears the table was done somewhat differently. He only cleans his place :). The rape scene was played differently too, quieter, and more deadly.

So too the ending where Blanche was not dressed but remained shattered. She begins shattered. Blanchett played her as totally on the edge from the get-go. The class element between Blanche and Stanley was thus downplayed, maybe one reason the character emerged as so sympathetic.

Another element in focusing on and making us empathize with Blanche was the set; it was two small rooms fronting us and by the end Blanche’s stuff was just everywhere and a mess; not dominating so much as the hollow debris clung to for self-respect (ironies here) of an existence thrown about. Lighting was used as in a movie: she was sometimes seen in the darkness and from the back.

They did keep Williams’s original ending, almost. Stella does not leave Stan and she knows he raped Blanche. It’s also not what else am I to do, but this desperate clinging on Stella’s part. Alas, upstairs violence was made a joke of, but not downstairs.

At the end I thought of a BBC performance (film) of Oedipus I saw in the 1980s. I forget the name of the actor but he just brought tears to my eyes as he stumbled about holding onto his dignity. So here with Blanchett.

I hope it’s filmed and thus has wider audiences. One of the great American plays of the 20th century. I thought of the great movie which empathizes deeply with a woman, Stella, Stella Dallas.

My comment is a contrast with the movie making the holiday rounds in the US just now: Pirate Radio. Read on.


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Our heroines whose names at this point are: Glencora, Duchess of Omnium (Susan Hampshire) and Mrs Marie Finn (Barbara Murray)

Dear Friends,

I’ve put on this blog a summary of the episodes of this part (An Elegiac Culmination), prefaced by situating it in the whole series, and containing several transcripts of key scenes, quotations from others, and stills.

Tonight I add a commentary.

General remarks:

Silverbridge (Anthony Andrews) salutes his sister, Mary (Kate Nicholls), Lady Mabel (Anna Carteret) and Mrs Finn on this cold sunny day (see the blanket)

When we get to Pallisers 12:24 and move finally out of the Prime Minister and into Duke’s Children, the mood of this series changes radically. It becomes idyllic-elegiac, and picturesque. This last book is the most changed by Raven for Raven does not kill off the Duchess until the final episode. He shows her sinking; she looks old and she is continually taking medicines, but she is there and very active. He changes the meaning of the book.

We saw in reading Trollope’s novel, The Duke’s Children, its weakness is its real backstory and passion about the Duke’s dissatisfaction with his marriage finally and this is not brought to the fore. Too painful for Trollope to make a front story because perhaps a parallel with his own marriage. In the book the Duchess’s use of Mary as a vicarious substitute which leads the Duke to reject Tregear passionately.

Here in the film we have instead a deeply loving couple, different no doubt, but sharing grief, loss, outlook. This Duke has no backstory. And the forefront is his struggle with Silverbridge. It is significant that people writing about Trollope’s book before the series write eloquently, movingly, and sentimentally about the Duke v Silverbridge as central to the novel. John Wiltshire says one thing movies often do is make visible how the average person wants to see a novel.

But Raven does more: The Duke’s Children is one of Trollope’s more Victorian novels in some of its attitudes and Raven to put this across uses a mood of bright comfort and high idealism. He has only a fragment of Tregear so he is turned into a poignant lover of Mary which is then contrasted to Lady Mabel Grex’s loss of Frank and her unwilling to marry the boy.

All the proto-feminism of Trollope is erased here: we haven’t a woman who is not given a choice she wants and therefore no place; instead she is made somewhat superficially cynical and wavering with a desire to become Tregear’s lover-mistress again, and we have pairs of young lovers contrasted, and it’s clear Silverbridge and Mabel are the mismatched pair against Frank and Mary’s deeply felt yearning and Silverbridge and Isabel’s bright young hope and energy. This lays the groundwork for the wet dream of the the American girl which takes over (and replaces the function of Madame Max as superfemale in the European movie style)


Facing it (defeat, later life): Duke (Philip Latham) and Duchess in their bedroom suite late at night

The duke and Duchess’s story:

Raven sees the Duke as noble, but also someone who would be lost, vulnerable, and something of a butt because he’s no networker and is not complicit or corrupt himself; he lives in a way others regard as dull; watching him talk with Phineas Finn through a window, his son, Silverbridge tells Lady Mabel he looks far older than his age. The implication is Silverbridge wants to enjoy life more and thus look younger.

For Trollope the character is this way too: but Trollope also identifies with the Duke, recognizes himself in him and critiques society for more than its materialistic corruption. All along, as Raven once said in an interview, the central figure for Raven has been the Duchess: it’s paradoxical, as Raven in part turned the series in many stories of gentleman attempting to succeed in the world.

Silverbridge is contrasted to his father and Anthony Andrews as Silverbridge gains gravitas when he is contrasted to the Duke’s deep idealism and genuine thought on the one hand and Dolly Longstaffe’s disillusioned cynicism and insight on the other.

There are two scenes between Silverbridge and his father, in the first Silverbridge tells of his desire to marry Lady Mabel and the Duke approves; the second is a central linchpin of the episode — and a powerful dramatic one. The Duchess’s disapproval of her son’s choice (what happened to that idealistic young girl of 1:1? we are to ask) contrasts with his father’s approval; his father’s dismay at his lack of altruism and depth contrasts with his mother’s way of regarding politics as a matter of family sheerly and individuals.

All this is true to Trollope’s conception, only it’s not in the Duke’s Children as the Duchess dies in the book’s first paragraph.

There is no contrast of the Duchess and Lady Mary. They are shown to love and glimpses of a deep relationship seen fleetingly, but there are so few scenes between them. The first is about entering the world together; the others about love affairs, Silverbridge for Marbel and Lady Mary for Frank. The Duchess identifies with her own lost love, not the girl in front of her for herself quite. Except for Marie Finn and the Duchess, at no point in all the series do we see women’s friendships as central to their lives beyond the early courtship before marriage, not even their family ones – as a mother-daughter pair would be. Lady Mary seems more acutely aware of her father: she worries lest Silverbridge upset him further; wants Tregear to appear to be serious and earnest before her father. Once her mother approves of Tregear at the close of 11:22, all is settled. I do not forget the Duchess early on we see her preparing an album to read with her daughter — in effect home-schooling her.

The culminating great scenes of the whole series as such are really the very long ones between the Duke and Duchess, which punctuate the series throughout. Sympathetically presented as they are, Phineas Finn and Madame Max (aka Marie) Goesler Finn are secondary hero and heroine. So their enjoyment of their park and grown children and the deeply felt scene at mid-point in the episode as the two learn to live with their loss of power are final moments in a 24 episode long story.

The film story began with a forced marriage between two very unlike people, deeply unsympathetic who had found people congenial to them, and we have experienced a long and rocky road with much estrangement and times of alienation, especially on the deep-feeling Duke’s part, and dogmatic uncomprehending insistence on his own way; for the Duchess it’s been frustration, deep and unending, at first an intense lack of fulfillment of her impulses and then when she had the chance for her ambition, and her desire to show off and have people admire her and feel on top and be ahead, she is thwarted, not appreciated, stopped, partly out of her own adequate judgement Trollope wants us to see, but also that (in the films this is there more unqualifiedly as the book’s anti-semitism and xenophobia has been cut) her protegee never had a chance. But now they are grown old together and have come to understand and appreciate one another.

Trollope’s critique of marriage becomes in the Raven team hands a reinforcement of submission and repression to family aggrandizement and social mores, for there are no such coming together loving scenes between the Duke and Duchess (and very moving they are) in either Phineas 2 or The Duke’s Children — for that matter 8:15 over the Duke’s death are invented and elaborated semi-original scenes too.

Phineas (Donal McCann) and Marie, secondary couple, standing out in the group of friends and family, and standing by

These scenes of Duke and Duchess are contextualized by three or four shorter between the Duke and Bungay, the Duke and Phineas and Bungay and Marie Finn and the Duchess. In all we see how the Duke has come to enjoy power and doesn’t want to let go because he wants to leave his mark on the society; he wants to have done something good and decent and far-reaching. Bungay says it was enough to hold on and provide peace. Phineas and Marie Finn’s views are simply that the Duke and Duchess have done what they could and now that their followers are tired of doing nothing exciting (bustle), nothing for war, for advancement of themselves, they have to let go and be glad they have escaped unscathed relatively, gotten what they could out of it.

The Duchess is as unwilling to let go as the Duke; and in their final long scene together she cries out more than he about their retirement which he has finally accepted before the scene begins.

It’s done in their bedroom with a mirror nearby and often we see her through the mirror — a device used repeatedly in films when women are at the center of the scene: it’s suggested in film studies that this shows how women judge themselves as they imagine society sees them, and invent an identity or assume one society imposes or wants them to enact, or they want to enact in order to be accepted.

Among these contextualizing scenes (for the Duke and Duchess) is the held-over the long scene in The Prime Minister (Chapter 68, “The Prime Minister’s Creed”), where Phineas and the Duke go for a walk in the park and talk politics. This is an important scene in PF2 and it is here too.

What is fascinating is how Trollope remains in generalities far more than the Raven team and how the Raven team update what’s said in Trollope to be a conservative message for the 1970s. In Trollope the Duke and Phineas remain in philosophical generalities like Monk does in his letter (the parallel moment in Phineas Finn when Monk defines what is meant by representative government and faces that it means government which includes the mediocre, the stupid, those who “represent” all the feelings and interests of their constituences. He does not think of lobbyists as we have them today :)):

In Trollope the implications have to do with income and property redistribution finally, it’s never made explicit. The Duke is simply a staunch liberal who wants to see more justice, noble loving hearts, clear intellect and egalitarian feelings spread through the earth and then produce legislation. In Raven’s film this is made explicit; he felt he could not remain vague. Palliser is talking of something that would bring about or call for redistributing property and rights and advantages and privileges. It’s Phineas who in both book and film says he is not sure he wants to go beyond fairness. The Duke says as people born to such privilege do they dare argue they deserve this and argue the others don’t (are ontologically inferior is what is meant) and not try to help others and also argue for their rights too, and work towards it. The Duke says this will increase happiness for all, but admits especially those without advantages.

Phineas’ reply in the film is that even those without advantages may not want egalitarianism, and it won’t make them happy to get rid of distinctions, not at all. Raven and his team are careful not to have Phineas argue the conservative view itself, and the Duke turns to his beautiful landscape and we see his luxurious room and remember how lovely his lifestyle and he says he wouldn’t want to give what he has up and maybe has the luxury of hoping for egalitarianism while he knows it will not happen for a long time to come.

This may seem far away from the 1970s, but the costume drama hides the agenda here. Bungay in his scene with the Duke argues (as he’s done before in the film and again not so explicitly in Trollope’s book) that English people don’t want revolution; they want things to remain at peace and orderly. This is Raven’s 1970s Toryism, for he has taken no poll.

Beyond contextualizing our aging hero and heroine this way, their life and times, the relationship and types the Duke and Duchess represent are shown visually and comically. The Duchess is to go out riding in a carriage with Lady Mary and Marie Finn with her sons and Frank Tregear on horseback. She is late dressing herself exquisitely. She does don a beautiful (alluring to my eyes) hat. How she loves coming out and Silverbridge telling her how lovely she looks. Then she refuses her seat in the carriage and instead takes the reigns away from her footman servant and leads the band herself on the top seat.

It’s touching: the young Lady Glen is there yet; this is just the sort of thing she loved from the beginning. After their dialogue the Duke and Phineas walk out and see the group. The Duke hurries over to take his wife down from her perch (lovingly of course) and worries that the young men’s race will hurt them. It’s just the sort of way he has of fretting over her health when she was pregnant in the early episodes. In character still.


The second generation of heroines: the deep feeling Mary and Lady Mabel (these are the center for Raven, and Isabel Boncassen, so delightful for Trollope to conjure up as an old man, is marginalized as exotic, foreign) talk of their heroes, Tregear and Silverbridge and Mary of her father

This is matched by the scene where Silverbridge tells Tregear he must give it up; this is chosen to be dramatized twice (much earlier when the Duchess objected we had a version of this) as befits a series about gentlemen coping:

Then there is the Duke’s Children, or second generation material. How are we asked to see this in the film? Early in the episode is the very moving scene with Frank where she implies she is offering herself to him sexually again, and he refuses not on the grounds he does not love her or could not again, but that he cannot tear himself between two women.

This romance is not in Trollope; Trollope’s Tregear is harder and would not sentimentalize this way; we are not sure about any sex, and he is now bound to and wants Mary for herself and also what she can bring. Trollope’s feminism is also gone; he really does have Mabel lament she has nothing to do with her life; this is a new motif with him; he shows her in a bleak gothic castle with Miss Cassewary at the end of DC. Here she is simply cut and dismissed by Silverbridge (I like that as in Trollope he is nowhere as likeable as he is in this series). Her need for money as central motivation is in both book and film.

About half-way through the episode we have the scene between Silverbridge where he asks Lady Mabel to marry him and she refuses; while short, it is strong and powerfully emotional. They play at courtship and it’s lyrical and sweet at moments (not hard in the way of Trollope); still, she tells him she cannot marry without love, yet at the end relents to say when he is grown up, harder, to come again. Alas, she does not in the film realize harder means he will not come again. In the book we are told of further proposals (not dramatized) which she refuses; they do not occur here. In the final scene she is regretting having said no because now Isabel will get him.

David Lean says most of the time don’t pay attention to the end of a movie or an episode. It’s a sop for the masses, an upbeat piece tacked on to please nervous backers and distributors. This episode shows that. It’s in the middle of the episode that the great moments arise. I think mini-series and soap opera don’t work in the way of commercial singleton films and the middles and endings are important.

Once again, in Trollope’s Duke’s Children as we have it together (only 3/4s of the original book) the books’ hero is the Duke and he stands alone at the center of the children the Duchess left him who have been brought up by and resemble her. In the book the Duchess is least linked to Lady Mary because she sympathized strongly with the love affair with Tregear remembering her own. That’s why in the book the Duke is against it.

We see 20th century attitudes again (as we did in earlier episodes when we saw the Duke misbehaving in front of his son and the Duchess trying to mediate and “spoiling” her sons): the older folks Duke and Duchess are suffering badly over their loss of power but hide it from the children. It’s presented that adult parents hide all sorts of realities from their children. That’s a modern ideal or even norm perhaps in some places, but not then. Major Tifto is marginalized, not central in the early way of the book which weighs Silverbridge’s decisions about male friends as heavily as it does his relationship with his father and choice of Isabel over Lady Mab. Then both Duke and Duchess involve themselves in Silverbridge’s choice: is she presentable, they ask (as if he had to get a middle-management joy through giving dinner parties). It’s almost funny in the way the material lends itself to these anachronisms.


As to technologies: how daring are the close-ups of Susan Hampshire and Philip Latham. Not until very recently did cameras come close to the faces of heroes and heroines (who we are to admire and want to be I suppose, identify with) to show their aging faces, slack skin, pock marks, blemishes of all sorts. This is also seen (a little farther off) for Phineas and Madame Max and Dolly to show them as aging, but not close up.

This is radical, an approach not seen until about 4 years ago.

Visuals have a logic of their own dependent on the particular actor/actress: they chose the yearning Nicholls for daughter of the originally brightly idealistic Lady Glencora; she is in dark green to deepen the pastoral green of the part. She contains in her a haunted spirit and is the visual genius loci of the part. This is why I began the first posting on this part with her

No it’s no Brideshead, The Jewel in the Crown, or Love for Lydia, 11-13 episodes of daring pictorialism and new techniques of various sorts, but I think the Pallisers is not written about in depth because (like the year-long Forsythe Saga), it was so ambitious, and is so difficult to remember, let alone apprehend precisely.

Onto Pallisers 12:25.


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In the afternoon, as we were driven rapidly along in the post chaise, he said to me, “Life has not many things better than this” (Boswell’s Life of Johnson, Thursday, 21 March 1776)

Lady Mary (Kate Nicholls) drawing outside the Matching Priory ruins

Dear Readers and Movie-Lovers,

This is another of the great parts of this series. Previous extraordinarily good hours were 2:3, 5:10, 8:15 and 8:16. Episodes 31-33 takes us to the film’s close of The Prime Minister matter as well as a culminating moment of the whole series; Episodes 34-35 are pure Duke’s Children, with Silverbridge the last of our young heroes (here only momentarily) astray.

At the close of the previous four novels, we have had a transition of some sort: except for the ending of The Eustace Diamonds (7:14, it has been a return to the pleasure grounds of Matching envisaged as an Arcadia, where we began (1:1), e.g., the transition of Can You Forgive Her to Phineas Finn, 3:6. But now we are not transitioning so much as anticipating a final close and a death of a principal character: so we are asked to remember back to the beginning, the marriage of the Palliser pair, think of the price the winners we are seeing paid, and look at what they have won. The mood is one central to many of these sorts of series: the elegiac. It is a mood rarely available to modern so-called non-costume drama (all movies are in costume), and and one this particular part dwells within continually by repeatedly giving us picturesque and yearning scenes.

A central mode and mood of film adaptations of older books which are also older costume drama is the elegiac. Why is this is rarely available to modern contemporary films. You need the slow graceful pace for at least a few moments; you need the distance so that you can lend yourself to believing such sentiments can be uttered and at length; you need the beautiful surroundings ,the subtle long-drawn developing characterization in a seriously-taken story. The drawing room in this part of the series has become green as a meadow, lit with sunlight.

Now that Lopez (Stuart Wilson, very great in the role) is dead, and the Wharton story cut adrift (11:23),

1) the Duke and Duchess (Philip Latham and Susan Hampshire) are again to the fore; 2), the political themes important to the Phineas books brought back (e.g., the question of the possibility of a fairer juster political system, or more equality in life and what this means) and made central once again (if only as a “fading dream”); and 3), the scenes of the Duke’s children are given more depth for themselves (not as contrasting to and defining the relationship and point of life for the Duke and Duchess).

The political theme unites the double-story of Duke and Duchess aging and the next generation replacing them, for Silverbridge’s (Anthony Andrews) stance as a Tory is (in effect, though he is too young to see this clearly) an attempt to change the family allegiance (as he will be the next Duke) to the Tories, and is thus a grave blow to all the Duke sees himself as having striven for when it came to legislative change.

What Raven has done is defer a good deal of the material about the fall of the Duke from The Prime Minister to work it out at more length (especially focusing on the Duchess) and interwoven this with material from The Duke’s Children — which had begun in the previous episodes, here and there:

1) the grown Mary (Kate Nicholls) and Silverbridge first introduced and Mary and Frank first see one another at the end of 10:20

2) Mary’s and Tregear’s (Jeremy Irons) attraction, the duchess’s objections to this and Silverbridge’s backing his mother are woven into 10:21;

3) Silverbridge’s having been thrown out of Oxford, the duke’s distress, and the son’s being sent to Venice which occasions the duchess and Duke’s visit; a slow motion interweaving of Lady Mabel Grex (Anna Carteret), seen first in Venice with Miss Cassewary (Josie Kid) and Treager with Silverbridge: Lady Mabel and Frank look very strained in Silverbridge’s apartment in Venice where enigmatic pregnant words about knowing one another already are passed. All found in 11:22;

4) at Matching we see Tregear attracted to Lady Mary and she to him by looks: 11:23).

So a careful look at the previous 4 episodes shows material developed or adapted from The Duke’s Children threaded into The Prime Minister and contrasted with the Wharton story matter; this enabled Raven to hold off on some of the PM matter, its half-defeated close, until now.

The important thing was to string out Lady Glen or the Duchess’s presence so that she would die in the very last episode and not before. The point of the filmic The Duke’s Children is not (as in Trollope’s book) to show a disillusioned lonely man refusing to allow his daughter to have what his wife wanted for her; Trollope’s duke reacts with a refusal out of vicarious imagined emotional losses. The point of the filmic Prime Minister, and filmic Duke’s Children is to show us how a companionate marriage emerged after much compromise and pain. The series began with that magnificent visually symbolic scene in the park of a forced match, and it ends in understanding and compromise, and beautiful children too (that matters). In the films, The Duke’s Children also the most truncated of the books is as foreshortened as The Eustace Diamonds (which to my taste lingered on too long but it had to for Mr Emilius was the murderer in Trollope’s Phineas Redux. Really we have at most three episodes at the most for this sixth novel; a tiny bit more if you count stray episodes looking forward to this from 10:20; see thumbnail outline.

I will do as I have done in earlier postings on the series, both summarize the episodes and comment on themes, mood, and individual scenes.

Episode 31: Changing Times

The first scene occurs between an aging Barrington Erle (Moray Watson) and Dolly Longestaffe (Donald Pickering) at the club discussing Lopez’s ejection and the probable coming defeat of the present government. They are chorus once again and provide a frame; at the same time, Silverbridge brings Major Tifto (John Ringham) to the club; thus a major figure in The Duke’s Children is introduced, and (as in the novel) Dolly swiftly sees Tifto is, and exposes him as, a liar. Tifto insinuates he has had an affair with an opera singer, and Dolly (knowing far more her far more than Tifto) asks if Tifto isn’t afraid of her husband. Tifto becomes nervous and anxious about spreading these stories suddenly (source: Duke’s Children, Chapter 7, 1995 Penguin, pp 41-42). Changing times is seen in the aging of Erle and Longstaffe; their preference to sit in a private room, the open talk of sex (which Erle looks embarrassed at) and gambling. There is also a foreshadowing: when Dolly says to Erle “Lady Glen would have made a better Prime Minister,” Erle replies: “I daresay. He’d certainly be lost without her.” The Tifto material comes from The Duke’s Children, Ch 6 (“Major Tifto”), in the Penguin, pp. 41-42.

The second scene is a moving one between the Duchess and Duke of St Bungay (Roger Livesey). It is a semi-original replay of scenes from The Prime Minister, Chs 63, pp. 543-45 and 66, 563-64. Much changed in detail but the basis of the affectionate relationship between the two and their determined attempt to shield the Duke is taken from Trollope; the difference is while Trollope admires the duke for his ethics, he does not sympathize with what he calls “coddling.” In Raven’s scene, the duchess wants to know if the government can last and he gives her answer she doesn’t like: it can’t. She blames herself for Lopez and Bungay exonerates her by saying if it hadn’t been Lopez, it would have been something else. In the novel the last straw is the Duke’s giving the garter to a good man whose virtue deserves it, Lord Earlybird. Raven provides mouth-to-mouth kissing at the end, by visuals suggesting the Duke’s attraction to this woman, but the last still shows her face worn, distressed, unhappy. She kissed to please him, not herself.

Third scene, Bungay, Erle and Phineas discuss coming dissolution. This is reinforcing what is dramatized in more scattered passages in the novel and includes Monk.

Fourth scene, the Duchess and Mrs Finn (Barbara Murray). This is analogous to Prime Minister, Ch 76, pp. 657-59. The duchess expresses her bitter regret the government has to go, and Mrs Finn says she does not mind that her husband will not be in office; does not care about such things unless he does. He’ll be back; but, says the Duchess, her husband will never be PM again. This scene segues into a culminating of the series whose textual basis is a short paragraph in PM where as Phineas and the Duke come to the end of their talk we are told they see the Duchess, Mrs Finn and the Pallisers’ eldest daughter in the carriage (PM, Ch 68, p 586).

Her hat a weapon, a barrier and guard

Scene 5, front room, Matching now this beautifully pastorally-colored place where greens and yellows and sunlight predominate.

This is an extraordinary scene between Frank Tregear Jeremy Irons) and Lady Mabel. This is our first complete true DC and yet it is wholly re-imagined by Raven from the narrator’s allusive references (DC, Chapters 9, “In Media Res,” pp. 56-61, 10, pp. 63-68, and especially 38 [Grex], pp. 237-38). Now the original scene far more subversive and disquieting than this one of reproach, Frank in Trollope’s original conception a ruthless riser, not this melancholy remorseful partly yearning young man of Raven.

In Raven’s scene it’s clear Frank and Mabel were once physical lovers and they could be so again were she to have time and space to get to him. [It is a man’s view where the man’s being trapped and woman the aggressor — which coheres with an introduction by Raven to Trollope’s An Eye for an Eye.] It’s fascinating how a number of the key lines occur in Trollope and the feel is utterly transformed into something less complex yet at once far more poignant and far more bitter. (Life does not yield such strong stuff and Trollope ever tries to imitate life.)

The coloring and tone of the mise-en-scene here is elegiac; she is pleading with him not to forget her and there are lines which suggestively insinuate she would be willing (again) to have sex with him if he would break it off with Lady Mary. It’s a beautifully picturesque and yearning, melancholy scene between Jeremy Irons as noble, well-meaning Frank Tregear, and Anna Carteret, as Lady Mabel Grex who is now wrenchingly regretful that she had given up Tregear two years ago now that she sees him at Matching and taking up with Lady Mary (played winsomely by Kate Nicholls), a few lines delivered by Irons had the tone, the very accents of Ronald Colman when he makes one of his poignant rueful appeals.

Establishment shot: Lady Mabel about to walk upstairs; we see Frank Tregear from the back inside the room. She turns to see him as she goes up; she walks back and into the room and over to him.

Lady Mabel: “Frank.”
Frank: “Good afternoon, Lady Mabel. Is the carriage ready?”
Mabel: “They’re not all there yet. Frank … (her face open to him)”
Frank looks down and then up; he avoids eye contact at the same time looking sensitively pained.
Mabel: “I wonder when we were last alone together.”
Frank: “Two years and more I suppose” (so also in 11:22 and the visit of Duke and Duchess to Venice was supposed to be after this)
Mabel (her lips tight): “[?] that summer at Lady Cantripp’s. Does not it make you yearn a little when you remember it?”
Frank: “What’s the good, Lady Mabel? We both agreed we should give it up because neither of us had the money. Let’s just stick to that.”
Mabel; “That you once swore that you should love me forever.”
Frank: “And you swore some things to me and yet it was you who said we should drop it.”
Mabel: “So I did. But I think the wrench has been greater for me. Your love has been transferred very quickly and very advantageously … [?] Lady Mary.”
Frank: “Yours has not been so very abiding. You do not, I notice, discourage Lord Silverbridge.
Mabel: “That is unkind, Frank. You know very well with such a father as Grex and such a brother as Perceval and the years going all very quickly, I must soon find a husband.”
Frank breathes deep, looks down.
Mabel: “There need be no such haste for you, Frank (her hand is now on his and the camera rests there). You might have been faithful to me for some while yet and you would not have gone wholly unrewarded.”

It’s here they come close, his face twitches and he shakes his head. (We may see she is asking him to be her lover while she gets herself a husband unscrupulously to pay the bills. This is very Henry James kind of couple — anticipating The Wings of the Dove had it been written by Trollope, but it wasn’t this.)
Frank: “You bad me take my love elsewhere and that I’ve done” (sad melancholy soft tone).
Lady Mabel’s voice much louder: “Yes. With the greatest ease” (bitter tone, hurt eyes).
Frank (now he walks off); “I cannot tear my heart and my life to pieces for the sake of an old love” (this is not Trollope’s much harder character).
They are on different sides of the room and then they swiftly walk to one another and are close: “Let’s go and join the others.” (They look as if they are about to kiss.)
Mabel: “Oh Frank I wish … ”
And then the interruption; as she is looking up to him, Silverbridge comes in and sees them. He does not register something is happening in front of him that matters (as he later does on DC about these two as lovers).
Silverbridge (opening door): “There you are, you two, come on, the carriage is waiting.”
Look on Frank’s face picked up by camera.
Mabel; “Yes, we were just coming (in an excited high emotional voice) as you see” (hurried tone, steps over towards Silverbridge)
Silverbridge put his arm out and she takes it.
Mabel: “Thank you, Silverbridge (they go out the door together). How well that coat becomes you …”
Frank follows looking grave (an ideal face for this character).
Mabel (loud voice still): “Which of your horses do you ride today?” [he has so many]
Scene of room over and we see it empty now and that is a meaningful chord. It’s the possession or not of such a room that makes Silverbridge what he is and the other two what they are not.

The poignancy of this deceptive ending (Lady Mabel deceiving SIlverbridge) then segues into a glorious elegiac moment — embodying the ambiguity of experience.

Scene 6: Just outside Matching, beautiful sunny day. Silverbridge and Mabel come out and hurry over to carriage, she climbs into carriage with Mrs Finn (waiting from Scene 4) and Lady Mary who has a blanket she puts over Lady Mabel’s lap. Tregar and Gerald (Michael Cochrane). Gerald has first eager lines of “Come on, come on, ” also showing he has less brains and self-consciousness than the others, ) on horses waiting and Duchess emerges in the sun.

The Duchess looks about (wonderful moment as she is beneath great hat and puts on gloves) and is in command; comes over but decides she will be the leader of the horses and take the reigns. Memories of 2:3 where she came in with Alice Vavasour (Caroline Mortimer) and said how she loved to ride and loved to be the driver of a carriage too but the Duke frowned on it.

Episode 32: Fading Dreams

Scene 7: Establishment shot: Phineas (Donal McCann) and Duke seen at medium distance in Duke’s study, Duke behind desk, Phineas in chair, talking intently. From PM, Vol 4, Ch 68, pp 582-86.

Duke: “Do you think it will soon go against us, Finn?”
Finn: “Yes, Duke, soon.”
Duke: “Ah, how so? (shaking finger) surely we could hold on to the beginning of the next season.”

We hear clopping of horses outside (we know it’s Duchess and family and friends in carriage and riding in beautiful place on fine day)

Finn: “I’m very doubtful of that.”
Duke: (Bitter now) “To have done so little, hmmm . . . In fact I would fain carry on. No. I . . . I’m determined to carry on, Finn, so long as there is any hope that we may be of service.”
Finn: “There comes a time for any government when it’s best service is to be gone.

[Elegiac tone suffused dialogue]

Duke (looks down sad.) “Well, I do not think it’s come to that yet. In fact, I pray not. (Gets up and walks over to another area.) No I would like to do at least some one thing before we go (apparently picked up and now waving blue books).”
Finn: “What is it your Grace would do if you could?”
Duke: (walking back, rueful tone): “If I could, Finn, hmmm, if I could . . . I would spread justice over the entire earth. I would lead chosen friends loving hearts, clear intellect, noble instinct whose one great aim was to abolish the distance between men.”
Finn: “Do men really want that?”
Duke: (Exasperated slight noise, sound like “Finn!”, walks a little): “How can we to whom so much has been given dare to think otherwise?
Finn: “But that which we have been given which if distributed equally would dwindle so pitifully that no man would get anything worth the having.”
Duke: “At least we would be all alike and there’d be justice. Oh Finn (shaking fits) you’re a liberal because you now that all is not what it should be. Because you’d march onto some nearer approach to equality?
Finn: “I want a fairer world, if that’s what you mean.”
Duke. (Makes sound like “Oh!” lips shake) “No no. I mean that as you are a just and liberal man then you must want all men to be equal.”
Finn sits back, “Mmmm.” (Looks melancholy and earnest and sad. He does not appear to
think men are equal nor are they at all like the Duke)

Duke: “Equality is so great thing, so glorious [tone turns acrid, disgust felt] that you become disgusted by the promise of it in the mouths of blood-thirsty and corrupt men.”
Finn: “Such men have asserted a mock equality so much that the very idea of the thing stinks in my nostrils.”
Duke: (Hamlet-like here) “And yet I fear that though equality is but a dream that may never come … still sometimes one likes to dream” (farther off shot, he walks around desk), “especially as there is no danger that Marching all this [his hand indicates his beautiful study and the landscape outside his window — in which we know his Duchess and adult children and Mrs Finn are riding] will ever be flown away when I wake up.” (Now bangs on world globe). “Ah, it’s pleasant to play with the idea of a millenium, Finn, that will never come to destroy me. Now, I doubt I should stand the test that’s been attempted in other countries.
Finn: “Yes, you should be thankful the English are not given to violent revolution. They prefer to enjoy what they have in peace and leave others to do likewise” (implication Duke would be a big loser).
Duke: “Will it always be so?”
Finn: “That I cannot say. For the time at least Duke, you are free to enjoy your domaine (pointing outwards to grounds beyond) and to walk in it without fear.”
Duke: : (smiles): “Well, Phineas, let’s walk in it together before the best of the day is gone.”

(Again sound of carriage, and next shot of next scene is of deep clear light steely blue sky with ruins seen.)

And then the scene with the Duchess: somehow this next one feels like the true ending of series; it should have ended here — the happy moment, but as in life the curtain does not come down then. It’s at a later serendipitious older moment the end comes.

Scene 8:

Establishment shot: Out of doors. We see horses emerging from the left hand of the frame and see them clopping, we see ruins. Soft blue sky, light breeze, glorious day. Horses seen from vantage of Duke and Phineas (who we know this from previous scene). Curiously memorable one of the grown children (Silverbridge, Gerald, Lady Mary,, Duchess, Mrs Finn and Lady Mabel) processing out to the grounds of matching on a fine spring day — one’s heart stops at the sense of a precious moment caught from the flux of time (see picture above).

Carriage and three horses go by, and then we see back of Phineas from back, black, top-hat and then two top-hatted men whose black silhouettes are closer to us with carriage moving from distance inbetween. Lovingly done. We watch and this is supposed to make us rejoice

The group slowly comes round the path and tree and down towards the men on the path which realls (though not exactly same) Alice Vavasour and Lady Glen ride ever so many years (episodes) ago, Lady Glen driving then and saying how much she loved this. She waves, and camera shows two men lift hats and wave back. Camera then catches them slowing down, stopping and her high on the seat, beginning to come down.

Duke: “Well, good afternoon, my dear.”
Duchess: “Have you had a nice afternoon, Duke?”
Duke: “Yeah. Very pleasant. Oh, Finn, and I we’ve just been talking uh oh politics.”
Duchess: (As she takes flowers from bouquet which seems there somehow) “Well, what other amusement is possible on such a beautiful afternoon” (this comes from somewhere in PM but I can’t find it)
Duke: “Uh, we’re just going out to enjoy it now” (murmurs inarticulate)

[Another picturesque-lovely still from these later Palliser parts, here the Duchess puts a flower in the lapel of the Duke (Philip Latham) after an exhilarating ride for her and before a pleasant walk for him on a bright day at Matching. A nostalgia for what never was matches to pastoral melancholy of the Matching front room, but bright with the spirit of Duchess as conceived by Raven. We once saw her put a flower in Burgo Fitzgerald’s lapel, 1:1]

Then from horses of three young men behind:

Gerald: “Silver, Tregear, race you both through the (?) wood?”
Silver: “Right. Tregear?”
Tregear: “Right.”
Silver: “Mrs Finn (signaling his body to her) shall give us orders.”
Mrs Finn: “As you wish, gentleman” (and camera catches her excited happy face, and she gets up hgh on the carriage): “Back, Mr Tregear. Steady, Silverbridge. Are you ready, gentlemen?”

[We are to remember her past too, and what she gave up at first and then how she gained Phineas who stands to the side of the carriage, with women laughing behind and actresses really do look gay and happy, they enjoy this enactment in these costumes in this site de memoire (history). This again is a true moment of culmination for Phineas and Marie.

Mrs Finn: “Off!”
Lady Mary: “Go! Silverbridge …”
Other lady’s voices shouting (indecipherable who) and we see them gallop off hell for leather

Back to waiting group:

Duke”: “Well these boys should take more care. Oh come along, Finn.”
Duchess holds on to his arm, elbow, slightly from the back. Finn puts a hand on her shoulder. He walks on, Finn next to Duchess and then camera swings to watch young men riding through another landscape, past that ruin.

Young man on horse (Tregear?): “Come on!” (He is way ahead.) He moves to and through ruined wall with big gap (looks like Tregear).
Then man on white-silver horse, appropriately, we remember this is Silverbridge: “Right! The last one at the Lodgegate’s a sissy!”
Gerald (the dunce, the clutz, it was he who started this): “Right! Ouff!” (as he comes through).

Now silver-white horse is rounding a tree, Gerald following and they are on the other side of the river from where we saw them originally and they ride forward, apparently Tregear in the lead.

Scene 9: Matching, front room, in walk Lady Mabel and Mary. There is no such scene in DC; instead Chs 29, pp. 181-82, 184-85, mostly narrated scene of Silverbridge asking Mary to be friends as an old friend of his, and then striking encounter where Silverbridge takes Mary to visit Lady Mabel and they find Tregear there with Miss Cass (! — the chaperon makes it respectable) and Mary thrusts herself into Tregear’s arms, they kiss and then Silverbridge breaks it up. Impossibly Victorian, theatrical melodrama.

Here we see Mary’s yearning for her father to approve of Tregear and regret that Treager raced; Lady Mabel’s memories of her young years growing up with Silverbridge. Mary understands her father’s valuing of “serious” nature in young man (in 1:1 Palliser’s most gut level objection to Lady Glen was she was not serious, she was frivolous).

Silverbridge, Tregear and Gerald barge in; Mary protests her father didn’t like it, and to Gerald and Silverbridge’s rejoinder’s, Mabel points to the Duke and Phineas seen in the distance by the ruin walking and “you see how earnestly” talking; Silverbridge looks and remarks how “old for his age” is his father, and Lady Mabel how young is Silverbridge; nevertheless she will walk with him, and they move out. Always these window scenes in the series. A motif brought back again and again as we watch different characters in and through it.

The scene moves to Gerald on the other side of Mary and Tregear; he is thick but gets message and Mary to Tregear (the conservative and replacement for her father): “so you may begin your first lesson . … in treason ….”

Scene 10: Duke’s study, from PM, Vol 4, Chapter 72, pp 619-21 (Penguin) and Chapter 76, pp. 659-660, Chapter 80, pp. 690-91. Bungay brings list of those “who want to resign from your ministry.” Painful when Duke asks if Bungay is resigning (no nor Monk nor Finn). Again Duke laments that they won’t give them another chance to enact something. To idea he must follow “chance” who may bring him in again, like the Duchess, he says “but never as Prime Minister”), and again “they were not brought in” to do significant legislation …

Episode 33: No Going Back.

Scene 11: Tregear approaches Lady Mary sketching by the ruin; sheer lyricism. Some of this adapted from Duke’s Children, Chapters 2, p 13 (narrated, Lady Mary tells Mrs Finn), and 29, pp. 184-185 (if not the words, the couple’s mood towards one another). The Duke’s Children is one of Trollope’s more Victorian novels in some of its attitudes and Raven to put this across uses a mood of bright comfort and high idealism. He has only a fragment of Tregear so he is turned into a poignant lover of Mary (which is then contrasted to Lady Mabel Grex’s loss of Frank and her unwillingness to betray herself and the boy by marrying him)


Feeling so strong it’s emotional pain

Scene 12: Duke in his study again, late at night. From Prime Minister, Chapter 72, pp. 619-21; Chapter 78, p. 620; and Chapter 80, p 691 (again reference to Caesar and Pompey, and adds “I am given to fretting …”) also, PM, Ch 66, p. 563 (where Trollope uses free indirect speech as follows: “The old duke [Bungay] had known them both well, but had hardly as yet given the Duchess credit for so true a devotion to her husband. It now seemed to him that, though she had failed to love the man, she had given her entire heart to the Prime Minster.”. In novel Monk is central in scenes or as talked about here; it’s Finn who is in the scenes and Monk and Finn talked about

Establishment shot: Duke in evening clothes, grim expression on his face, sitting on his chair
As they speak, the camera reveals that nearby are Finn and Bungay. Late at night.

Finn: “You must join us, Duke. You must not go altogether. We need you as a statesman and as a friend.”
Duke: “You’re very kind, gentlemen, but Caesar could never command a legion under Pompey.”
Bungay: “It has been done much to the benefit of the country, and with no loss of honor in him who did it.”

Duke gets up slowly: “It will never be done by me.” [plot-design of rest of parts of series will be showing him come to accept a new position in parliament as Duke [upper house] with relief after death of Duchess and his experiences of retirement alone and of his adult children.]
Bungay: “If the fact that you have been first minister should deprive the country of your services in other offices given [?] all the years you have left to you, then I for one shall think the loss irreparable.”
Finn: “And I second that. We cannot spare men ilke you, Duke, for very long.

Camera on Duke facing backwards, seen from shoulders up. He turns.

Duke: “Well, gentlemen, I can’t deny it pleases me to hear you say so. But for m’self I shall never desire to stand at the head of a government again. As you may have observed, I’m given to frettin’. I don’t think that a Prime Minister of a free country should suffer from that infirmity. In fact, for some years to come I would prefer to be altogether out of office. However, I pray that the time time come at last when I may again endeavour to be of some humble service” (This is the last sentence of Trollope’s The Prime Minister, p. 691).

Camera on Bungay looking at Duke gravely.

Duke: “Now if you will forgive (hand to forehead) me, gentlemen (he looks as if he really is about to cry) … (and)

Duchess comes in slowly, all in ivory and white lace. “You are all working very late.”
Duke: “Weighty matters to be decided.”
Duchess: (Worry and anxiety on her aging face, weary look): “But you are finished but that now.”
Bungay: “Yes, my dear, we are finished with that now.”

Camera on her nodding. She walks over to him. She puts her hand on his face, great affection in hers. He looks distressed, slightly paralyzed, not knowing what to do next.

Duchess whispers: “Come. It is time to go to bed.”

He nods.

Scene 13: Duke and Duchess’s bedroom

This is taken from PM, Chs 72, pp. 622-24, and Ch 78, pp. 672-75

Establishment shot: she at her glass, he sitting in his bedroom jacket

Duchess: “What did he say?”
Duke: “I’m sorry, my dear (some noise), what?”
Duchess: “What did the Duke say?”
Duke: “Oh, that our days are numbered.”
Duchess: (she laughs a little). “Oh, I could have told him that long ago. There isn’t a porter at one of the clubs who doesn’t know that. Who is to succeed you?”
Duke: “Oh I shall advise her Majesty to send for Mr Gresham. Oh, she may wish to see Mr Daubeny as well. Not easy to make a ministry at present.”
Duchess: “Why should you not go back?”
Duke: “No. That is not on the cards.”
Duchess: “The why not? Ever so many men have done it after going out. Why not you? Oh, how could they be so ungrateful?”
Duke: “Cora. I’m not going back and there is no point in discussing it further.”
Duchess: “Of course. I understand nothing because I am a woman.”
Duke: “You understand a great deal, but not quite right. At least our troubles are over.

She nods.

Duke: “Oh, I remember, you said the other day, the labor of being a prime minister’s wife [had been] almost too many for you.”
Duchess: “I never said so. As long as you did not give way, no labor’s were too great for me. I’d have slaved morning and night so that we might have succeeded. Oh, I do hate being beat like this. I’d sooner be cut to pieces.”
Duke: “Ah, nobody likes to be beaten, Cora. There is always disappointment at first.”

She nods.

Duke: (Hand on her arm): “You did say you’d be relieved when it came.”
Duchess: “Yes, yes, I know and I meant it. Nevertheless, after drinking brandy so to speak for so long I really think a thin claret would hardly agree with my stomach. Hmmm. (She looks round at him.) Shall you like it for yourself?”
Duke: “I’m a private gentleman, my dear, with more time for his wife and children.”
Duchess: “Well, that is all very well, Duke, but we ain’t quite what you’re used to. You can’t bully us like a cabinet meeting or bring in a bill for reforming us or make us go by decimals. You’ll find us very dull subjects to work on.”
Duke: “Oh, I don’t think so, Cora. Ah, there is Gerald and Silverbridge. They’re going to need guidance and advice.”
Duchess: “Indeed. But you needn’t heap it on them by the cartload.”
Duke: Oh, Mary too, you know she’s got to be settled.”
Duchess: “Now that is woman’s work.”
Duke: “Oh yah. Oh very well.”
Duchess: “Oh well. I can dare to tell the truth about this change, Planty, even if you cannot. Oh yes (intense grief in her face close-up), it will make me unhappy.”

They hug, shake a little (movement image here).

Duke: (he whispers): “I can be honest too, with you at any rate. It will fret me to be without work.”
Duchess: “Yes, yes, I know. I am sorry. I do feel responsible [reference to Lopez debacle].”
Duke: “That is nonsense. It would have happened anyway.”
Duchess: “Well, I shall not be altogether discontented.”
Duke: “What will your contentment be?”
Duchess: “In you. In you (gratified look on her face). Your work was making you ill. Rough people whom your tender nature could not understand worried you. Oooh! I’d have given them worry for worry, but you could not. Well, [?] you’ll be free of them, and I so I shall be contented (close up).
Duke: “Then I shall be contented too.” His face close up seen from a slant looking gravely and very tenderly at hers.” (PM material now come to an end)

Episode 34: Future plans.

Scene 14: Matching front room, begins with Silverbridge telling Frank he must give “it” [Mary] up. DC, Chapter 14, pp. 87-89, Chapter 31, pp. 191-92. Lines about the Duke: “he’ll say a word or two which you’ll find very hard to bear … My governor’s the quietest man going, but he has got a way of making himself disagreeable when he wishes that I never saw equaled.” Mabel comes in with a distraught expression on her face, Silverbridge says to Tregear to “push along, and Silverbridge proposal scene with Mabel and her rejection ensues. DC, Chapter 19, pp. 120-24.

In book scene is so much less pleasant, and we see more what these young intrinsically hard and selfish people are. It’s played here far more plangently and less bitterly than the scene in Trollope. This is true throughout the adaptation of this last novel. Much more romantic at all points.

They are in the film scene somewhat gay and playful, begin with talk of money which to Silverbridge means nothing for real (“What an accursed thing is money …”) and only when Mabel “lets him off the hook” (an ugly phrase which comes out of a mindset which regards women as trapping men) does the scene really veer into Trollope’s mindset, and even then her prominent reason for saying no, that she does not love him, is brought to the surface in a way it’s not quite in the scene. The proto-feminism of Trollope’s approach which is to emphasize her desperation and bring in Silverbridge’s sense something went on between her and Tregear is dropped; she is more simply not able to come up to her own cynicism.

The mise-en-scene is again the pastoral green ambiance of the part, with the window not far off. She does look out window from time to time; she is watching Mary and Frank. She does tell him he can come again and he looks all vulnerable and willing. She says she’s won; he says it’s been a draw. She says he needs to be harder (ironically this will boomerang at her)

Scene 15: First of Duke’s scenes with Silverbridge. He has papers and is talking to Silverbridge.
From DC, Chs 26, pp. 167-69, 27, pp. 172-74 (in book it takes place at Silverbridge’s club and is interrupted by Tifto). In book he is older than Lady Mabel by a week; in film she is older than him by a week. Duke suggests Parliament for a career and the seat at Silverbridge now open; Silverbridge tells of his desire to marry Lady Mabel; Duke remembers Lady Mabel’s alcoholic and gambling father and relative poverty but it does not matter; in the book he goes further: realizes she is the kind of person he would naturally be comfortable with. So wants her for daughter-in-law. First of two scenes, the second longish and important.

Scene 16: Invented scene of Duchess and Duke segued into. Duchess in boudoir, again inhaling some medicine (foreshadowing):

She is not for it. She says Silverbridge is too young for Lady Mabel, and she says he’ll get bored, Duke refers to Lady Mabel’s attractiveness and “she’s very clever” and he doubts the boy will be bored (salacious undercurrent in a gentle jest); to which she replies that she will not “interfere” just give “loving motherly advice” and her face turns and we are in the next scene with

Scene 17: “Why did you go to your father before me, hmmm?” He justifies himself by”well a lot of things have happened to hurt him, mother” and he wanted to be sure. Is she jealous? She is pleased at this semi-flirtation, but we get this comment from her: she wants “the very best” for her son, but he looks impatient, tired, rueful but wary too. Then we get the very Trollopian sentiment from her that in marriage, the hors d’oeuvres are the easy part; “she’s not tender enough to make a good joint …” Purpose of scene is to keep her and her and Silverbridge’s relationship in front of us.

Scene 18: At Silverbridge’s club. Dolly brought in in lieu of our narrator who cuts across time and space and provides the kind of irony Dolly does in conversation. Dolly is in DC too — though not as much as here proportionately. From DC, Chapter 7, pp. 45-46 (at least to ideas), Chapter 14, pp. 85-87, Trollope’s point is that party doesn’t matter as much as individual family-and-friend allegiance and Silverbridge doesn’t know that as yet, Ch 16, p. 100. As Dolly says “your governor’s going to be no end cut up about this, Tregear comes in to warn Silverbridge against Tifto and at first Silverbridge resentful, but then sees the truth and then the scene between Tifto and Silverbridge where Silverbridge disdains Tifto to his face in front of the others. Words of that scene closely taken from book (e.g., Ch 14, p. 87: “Now look here Major Tifto, if you’re dissatisfied, you and I can easily separate ourselves”).

The humiliated and therefore angry Tifto

Episode 35: Political Clash.

Scene 19: Duke’s Study. From Duke’s Children, Ch 3, p. 19 (narrator tells us), Chs 7, pp. 44-47, a letter in Ch 14, p. 92. Second linchpin scene for tranposition of this sixth book: Opens with Duke upset that Fothergill has reported Silverbridge needs to have bills for 4000 pounds for training thorough racehorses, to which Silverbridge says that’s all right as he’s giving all that up (!), and then demurs he’s keeping Prime Minister with Tifto; then they get into Silverbridge’s betting as “nothing to speak of,” and then when they turn to Silverbridge’s having gone down once to Silverbridge and going again in a week or two, father starts to admonish he has to gain trust of electorate, he says he has it, and then it comes out Silverbridge tells his father he’s a Tory. Duke’s grave face as he listens to this talk:

His ideology is selfishness and protection of his property and class and we are to see he’s hardly thought this out at all; his expressions are banal and through cliches. He refers his father to what Tregear says. The Duke is appalled partly because it’s a question of heritage (irony here) but also his son shows no depths, no real thought and no understanding of the broader issues or any idea he should go into them. Son realizes how hurt his father is:

But nonetheless, he shrugs it off and deals with it by saying with how he’s not smart and everyone says Tories are the party of the stupid so he belongs there. A complex moment catching real psychology of conflict between two such people.

And then Silverbridge insists “I’m jolly hard put to get there as it is,” away to play cricket; 21 other fellows to consider.

Scene 20: Cricket field. Wholly invented scenes but dialogues and ideas taken from party and water scenes in book. In book, Silverbridge first meets Isobel, DC, Ch 28, pp. 176-79.

We are with audience members watching, and then a familiar person in yellow suit walks on, so we are with Dolly once again. He is there at so many transitions. He walks over to Lady Mabel and Miss Casse in lovely shades of pastoral green; back to pastoral world of opening.

Lady Mabel given disillusioned lines with allusion to Tennyson: “I quite like cricketeers. They look so wholesome all dressed up in white, clothed in white samite,” to which Dolly responds ironically, “Mystical. Wonderful.” Dolly says suddenly of Silverbridge that he’s worried, to which Mabel (not sympathetic we feel) “What has his lordship to worry about? Who has bet?” “Well, there is myself,” “So I had supposed.” Gerald brought in as perhaps coming if he can escape Dons. The “oddity” friend, Tifto, brought in and Longstaffe makes a cattylike remark (Lady Mabel’s and the duchess might not have hit it off): “Inherits it from his dear mother I dare say.”

They look over and watch the first meeting of Silverbridge and Isobel (Lynn Frederick), and camera shifts to them, and we are close up and watch and listen.

He says he’s “quite worn out” with worrying over all those who’ve bet on his horse, lightly said but we are to feel he partly means it. She’s glad he “feels” his “responsibilities, even though the matter be so trival” (she laughs). But it’s not. He invites her to Derby too. She will go to see, not to risk her money.

Then we (with Boncassen family, Jerry Stovin and Eileen Erskine as Mr and Mrs) watch Silverbridge play cricket — emphasis on his youth, innocence, beauty. The blue sky, her eagerness from afar; montage-lie shots give us sense of afternoon wearing away.

A final dialogue of Silverbridge and Isabel. In book Tregear was there and Mabel is bitter and ill-natured in comments; here she is alone with Miss Cass and says she’s “been a fool” and has lost him, and Miss Cass says “if he was in earnest,” he will come again. This is from DC, Chapter 20,pp 129-30. In the book we are told Silverbridge “went forth to ask three more times” and was put off (Chapter 31, p. 194) three more times (to make us sympathetic to him, but in series he never asks again, and part ends on the desolate face of Mabel who does not speak of love for Silverbridge or her desire to marry him, but her desire to be Duchess of Omnium.

Lady Mabel has lost him

For information on Sudeley Castle, see comments.

Next: some commentary on this part and then onto 12:25


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Gertrude Wentworth (Lisa Eichhorn) in landscape with gazebo, 1979 Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala Europeans

Daisy (Cybill Shepherd) and Winterbourne (Barry Brown) watch a Punch and Judy show, 1974 Bogdanovich Daisy Miller

Dear Friends,

I’ve been thinking about a specific period of costume drama that is not done sufficient justice to, partly because it’s not recognized as a period or type within the history of costume drama movies. I’ve seen it mentioned as an entity only by Andrew Higson in his English Heritage, English Cinema. Higson suggests (as do other writers about early 20th century costume drama, e.g., Pam Cook, Fashioning the Nation and Gainsborough Films, and Sue Harper, Picturing the Past) that from the 1920s through 50s costume drama was a pop art: little attention was paid to historically accurate detail; it was in fact shunned lest it intimidate audiences. Higson talks as so many do (Claire Monk) of the explosion of costume drama in the 1990s, how these apparently erudite and elite high quality movies made themselves popular by addressing relevant issues today, using stars (especially sexy male controlled macho ones), and how since then there’s been partly a return to popular art so the latest costume dramas (post-2004) are mix historical accuracy, subtlety of psychology, literal faithfulness to a source with broader action-adventure, dance, sexualization, adventure (e.g., the Elizabeth movies with Cate Blanchett).

To sum up, previous to the later 1960s, or 1920-50, you have this pop costume drama/film adaptation where no attempt at historical accuracy is really made and ruthless changes in the original text: Two epitomizing examples of the 1930s through 50s pop types are the 1940 MGM P&P and 1945 Kitty. Afterwards, the 1990s, there’s a turn to opulence, faithfulness which still uses the stories and characters to address contemporary issues and an increase in naturalism/realism, plus computer techniques coming in. An epitomizing example is the 1995 Pride and Prejudice; this type is still being done only with less lavish budgets.

Well, what about this period from the 1960s through 80s? I’d say it’s characterized by boldness about art itself, not afraid to stylize strongly (which I’m especially drawn to), going for long shots (so Ang Lee was doing nothing new in the 1995 S&S by Emma Thompson), language close to or literally lifted from its textual source (really faithful transpositions or very carefully considered commentaries). I’ve written about two of these recently: the 1965 Tony Richardon’s Tom Jones and the 1974 Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.

Daisy and Mr Giovanelli admiring the art work in a cathedral in Rome

Felix (Tim Woodward) and Gertrude dancing in his studio in a flood of sunlight

Tonight I’d like to single out two I’ve watched lately — as well as read the texts: Henry James’s Daisy Miller adapted by Peter Bogdanovich-Frederick Raphael-Frank Marshall and his The Europeans adapted by Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala. What fascinates me is they are both from subtly nostalgic texts which criticize radically how we deal with sexual experience against a backdrop of a historically understood era’s social and even religious mores. Now one finds this in the other art costume dramas of the era: think Brideshead Revisited (adpated from Evelyn Waugh) and Love for Lydia (adapted from H.E. Bates).

These Henry James novellas don’t compromise with popularity, are about sexuality and central familial-class issues, and also (by chance) about an opposition of values made picturesque by a contrast between an imagined innocent US and corrupt Europe. I could as well have discussed the 1970s through 80s Austen movies, the long mini-series (Pallisers, Poldark), Brideshead Revisited. All have a delicacy and complication of approach (different moods and phases in the mini-series), which I’ve just now observed for the first time in a long time in Sandy Welch’s remarkably humanly complex 2009 BBC Emma (she substitutes simplicity for stylization — so this could really be a party at an inn, neither too small nor too opulent and brimming with people as in the 1990s through recent TV mini-series).

I will cover James’s Daisy Miller and Bogdanovich’s movie more at length; I’ll be brief on James’s Europeans and concise on Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala movie. Basically I go over the second movie to show the same sorts of things we see in the first movie.

First up, Daisy Miller: book and film. Here is a summary of the novella’s outline and basic information about Bogdanovich’s film adaptation

In the novel, our third-person consciousnes and point of view, Winterbourne, a 27 year old expatriate bachelor American who wants young (and to him) wild Daisy Miller to follow conventions for her own sake. Daisy Miller wants to live out and go beyond the options available to women. The odyssey of experience which Daisy, “the child of nature and of freedom” [“Preface,” Daisy Miller, 1909], undergoes reveals society’s desire to confine women within a narrow and rigidly defined sphere. While those women who accept their circumscribed existence pay varying prices of neurotic illness, ineffectuality, and hypocrisy, the woman who ignores social prescription is punished by ostracism and death.

Although the women characters uphold the system which restricts them, the chief arbiter of society for Daisy is a man, the aptly-named Winterbourne. As a definer and enforcer of the bourne or boundary of social propriety, whose verdict has the life-denying implications of winter, Winterbourne represents the artificial world which has ultimate control over the lives of women. Daisy is identified with natural world.

Winterbourne is strongly attached to Geneva, a city identified with Calvinism and its social reflection, a decorum which is both narrowly conventional and hypocritically relaxed. The innocent and natural association of young people is strictly controlled and even discouraged: “In Geneva, as he had been perfectly aware, a young man was not at liberty to speak to a young unmarried lady except under certain rarely occurring conditions.” Such a view is sustained in Rome by Mrs. Walker, a lady who “had spent several winters at Geneva” and is thus linked to Winterbourne’s position both seasonally and geographically

With Winterbourne as observer and mediator, Daisy Miller develops as a series of confrontations (sometimes at second hand) between Daisy and those women who live under the sign of Geneva. She is pretty and he is attracted; by end of story he realizes he has lost out. Randolph, obstreperous brother, a parallel for Daisy only it’s girls who are controlled not boys. Mrs Miller, a hopeless hapless helpless sort of woman. Like Mrs. Costello’s headaches,

Daisy Miller MrsCos

Mrs. Miller’s dyspepsia is both a response to the paucity of meaningful activity in her life and a substitute for it. She becomes animated only when discussing her illness, an affliction which at least makes her important to one person–her doctor:

Daisy 3
Chloris Leachman as Mrs Miller to the side

A poignant significant utterance by Daisy or Annie Miller: “I should not think you would let them be so unkind!” she cries to Winterbourne. She never realizes the consternation she causes in Rome. “I don’t believe it,” she says to Winterbourne. “They are only pretending to be shocked.” Her blindness to the nature of the American colony is equalled by her blindness to Winterbourne and Giovanelli as individuals. While Winterbourne fails to “read” her “riddle” rightly, she fails to “read” his. She feels his disapproval in Rome, but she is not aware of his affection for her. Neither does she reveal any adequate perception of her impact on Giovanelli. To Daisy, going about with Mr. Giovanelli is very good fun. Giovanelli’s feelings, we learn at the end, have been much more seriously involved.

Basically, she is lonely, and she has never know much “society,” except that of gentlemen. There’s a curious mischievous resonance in her words which has the function of alerting us to how much she may be misunderstood here. It’s not a game as she thinks. She offers affection and Winterbourne doesn’t understand; she refuses to abide by conventions and knows she is refusing. She’s a sweet smart Lydia Bennet

As to the other characters: Mr Giovanelli who goes about with Daisy and is content to be her constant friend, is a (to the colony of upper class English and American types) a socially unaceptable Italian — he is also a kind man. There’s Mr Winterbourne’s hypocritical aunt, Mrs Costelloa cold narrow and shallow snob, cold; Mrs Walker, a seething kind of woman, incident in Pincian gardens caught beautifully in the movie. She sees Daisy as breaking some pact all women keep together: by phonily pretending not to be sexualized, they can (she thinks) better manipulate men. Eugenio, the courrier, an escort, he knows what they should or should not be doing.

What the movie and story share: Chapter 1 Winterbourne and Daisy meet in Vevey, Switzerland; Chapter 2 they go to the Castle of Chillon together (where prisoners were thrown to die); Chapter 3, they meet again in Rome where she is being escorted around by Mr Giovanelli; Chapter 4 she is snubbed and made a pariah and has only Mr Giovanelli to be with; she insists on going to the Coliseum where she catches malaria and dies.

This outline may be said to omit everything important and particularly the characters of Mrs Costello, Mr Winterbourne’s censorious elderly aunt, censorious not of bad behavior or sin (he lives with a woman in Geneva), but of allowing anyone in public to suspect you of flouting proprieties, much less doing anything unconventional (he pretends to be taking courses), Mrs Costello’s presence important in Chapter 2 (Daisy not a hypocrite; comes out with truths: “she doesn’t want to know me”; she does in the book have interesting reflections; in the film she is made something of a philistine, a little dense); and of Mrs Walker in Chapter 3 (enraged at Daisy’s snubbing her, failure to recognize Mrs Walker’s right to control).

(From the later 18th century through to the early 20th, among the middling classes, when a couple was engaged, it was understood they were really going to get married and it was okay to indulge in a certain amount of sex. When Daisy tells Winterbourne she is engaged, she is spiteful or enticing or asking for trouble — she is saying she may be having sex with Mr Giovannelli. When she assures him by message she was not engaged, she is saying they didn’t.)

To turn to the movie, where James uses contrasts of place in story; the movie contrasts social occasions — and puts before us contrasts of beautiful and haunted places. Geneva, capital of calvinism where people are suspicious and repressed; Vevey, lovely, summer, freedom; near is Chateau de Chillon, where the imagery of dungeons, columns, death and torture from religious fanaticisms remains are felt everywhere (and yet the feel is a gentle melancholy); Rome, dangerous settled society, with coliseum in background, beautiful melancholy imagery of death and dying In the story, p 62

Now I’ll look at the story as pictorial phases. The first phase is Vevey: Winterbourne meets Randolph, then Daisy;
we see his evening meeting with Aunt in Bath’s; later Mrs Miller and then Eugenio on terrace, then they visit Chillon, and we have one more brief scene with Mrs Costello. The movie uses all these.

The second phase includes the visit to Mrs Costello by Winterbourne; Mrs Walker’s at home, the walk in the Pincian gardens, where Mrs Walker’s carriage is refused; the evening party where Mrs Walker snubs Daisy; Winterbourne and Mrs Costello visit St Peter where they see Daisy and Giovanelli wandering; Winterbourne comes upon pair in palace of Caesars; then sees or hears Daisy and Giovanelli in Colosseum (wasteland) at night; Daisy’s illness and death presented through opera, corridor, Winterbourne’s two visits to hotel, and then funeral

Some differences: the movie opens with Randolph; book opens with Winterbourne; Punch and Judy show added; Winterbourne’s friend, Charles; also Mr Giovanelli’s singing. The movie dramatizes the scene at the grave fully and poignantly.

I suggest this film doesn’t present things differently but rather different things. We lose the subjective narration. Cybill Shepherd excellent as Daisy; so too Barry Brown (Winterbourne) who was a melancholy man; Chloris Leachman as Mrs Miller, James MacMurtry, Randolph, Mildred Natwick Mrs Costello, Eileen Brennan Mrs Walker, Duilio del Prete (Giovanelli) Screenplay Frederick Raphael. Directed and produced by Bogdanovich who was having an affair with Shepherd at the time.

I loved this evocative visit: as Prisoner of Chillon, Bonnivard, the Genevan freedom fighter, confined there solitarily for 6 years. The dialogue throughout in the film refers to the haunted nature of the place. The allusion is not really a parallel (Daisy is not that much a prisons), but it is suggestive. This and colossseum as place where great cruelty once happened is in the film. We see them at play in the dungeon, but its connection to death and the destruction of people by their society is felt; as they ride away they look contemplative.

The visit foreshadows the later visits of Daisy with Mr Giovannelli to the Colosseum. Now these are seen by them — as Mr Winterbourne overhears their laughter — as fun apparently. But we see them at a distance in this place and it could be they are having sex; at any rate, she sickens and dies. And the disjunction between the playful atmosphere of the first and realities of the place and melancholy close anticipates what we are to surmize about the colosseum visits.

Dress counts in the movie and is partly what makes people come: Cybill Shepherd is given just gorgeous outfits (so much flounce and furbelow); as Daisy she is in beautiful innocent light colors (white, pale pink, light blue, she seems to radiate light); Mrs Walkman is in dark green and red seems to draw light into herself; Mrs Costello in very severe clothes. Mrs Miller is very fussy and seen from a distance a shadowy widow figure fleeing attention, very nervous. Eugenio is very sombre and formal as he smokes away; Winterbourne is impeccably correct in dress; and Giovanelli is given many informal florid touches.

As Winterbourne attracted to Daisy, we are to feel she's attracted to him far more than we do in the book. By her sheer physical presence, she's more sexual. Cybil Shepherd was a beautiful woman. She speaks the lines rapidly and ephemerally conveying a sense of a brief heedless kind of life. Chattering, she is imperious, sit over there, do this and do that. Hurry up, Mr Winterbourne. She offers easy affection and he can't understand this.

Few long shots dwelling on the landscape – though what is there is effective. The film tends to give us long shots at end of an episode. to establish where we are, as filler, to end an episode.


Daisy and Mr Giovanelli sing “Pop goes the weasel.”

Bogdanovich relies on close ups to get across strong drama. Comedy is the medium shot. As against non-story music of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart (the opera is Verdi), we have two light American songs: Pop goes the weasel an d”When you and I were young, Maggie. Funny and innocent; nostalgic and sweet. Haunting thematic significance when it’s played over grave of a girl who will now never have been anything but young. Here is Daisy in one of the last shots of her at the Colosseum, showing the grimness of her inner life towards the end.

CLOSE-UP Daisy MillerEnding

The movie was a commercial failure. Bogdanovich is not liked it’s said and it was not promoted by the studio. But it was moer than that. First, it failed to address itself clearly enough to contemporary topics; it means to, but it doesn't manage it. You might say it's problem is it's too faithful. In its 19th century era, this story was attacked in its time as shocking — it was understood James getting at these norms. It was seen as attack on American girl — exposing them as frivolous. It's a contrast of old world European and new "innocent" world American Most people don't care in the least about this any more; only those well-versed in 19th century American literature probably know about it.

What could Bogdanovich have done — anticipating the 1990s? he could have shown Winterbourne's life in Geneva. In the film Colosseum signifies cruelty (gladiators died there) just as Castle of Chillon does. You could have shown Geneva to be a hypocritical uptight sinful place.

Second, Barry Brown as Winterbourne is central and not given enough lines or things to do. The movie wants us to see that Winterbourne's complacency has been shattered or at least disrupted and the novella wants us to feel Winterbourne has not been deeply affected. The novel damns Winterbourne much more. But it is true Barry Brown comes across as stiff. He is given many of the point of view shots. We see a lot of the movie from his eyes, just about all of it. There are objective shots, but not many.

I began to watch The Europeans for the sake of Robin Ellis. I had been watching him as Edward Ferrars in the 1971 S&S, and then read his effective lucidly written account, Making Poldark. His career and fortune were made by that mini-series. I had noticed he played the demur supposedly repressed young hero in other films; in Bel Ami, he played a character whose sexuality was ambiguous. In The Europeans he is Robert Acton who decides not to marry the demi-monde Countess Munster, once Eugenia Young (Lee Remnick).

Note the strained faces looking forward

We have comic renditions of the same discomfort:


For Henry James’s story, here is a thorough account.

What holds your attention in the movie and at the same time makes you yawn is the persistent holding to minutiae of detail. We have exquisitely photographed landscapes (as the one above) and carefully held shots of people repressed.

Felix watching fish

This has become a convention: the shot of the character at the window with bars

There are shots with the characters poised in parallel postures:

Gertrude and Charlotte

In both Daisy Miller and The Europeans close attention has been paid to dress, corsets, how people walked, the line of the silhouette that runs from the top of the actor’s head to the tips of his or her toes.

Again the music is carefully chosen: apt is Clara Schumann’s Trio, Opus 17 — very slow, played by Eugenia when she is at home waiting for Robert Action to call. Against these we once again have the American ballads done straight, comically and nostalgically: “Shall we gather at the river” is in the background too.

The themes here include the self-deception of self-conscious virtue. Felix and Eugenia, ex-Americans who have become a Bohemian artist and woman separated from her German aristocratic husband. They come to the US seeking shelter. The relatives are Brahmin unitarians; only Gertrude shows herself restless at having to go to church to listen to Mr Brand. Mr Brand is paired off with Charlotte, the pious sister, Felix and Gertrude make an escape into one another’s arms. But the Countess seems to overplay her hand and loses Robert — much to their ambiguous relief and regret.


This was not a big box office success, but it pulled in respectable-sized audiences and has not been forgotten — partly because it’s Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala productions and since Merchant’s death, Ivory and Robert Emmet Long have been producing books about their films, and on the DVDs, there are features which promote the films as important, explaining them and providing intriguing accounts of how they were made.

To return to the movie itself, much that is pleasurable in it would be precluded today. The very nature of the looser medium precludes the intense introspective kind of art in Europeans (as well as Daisy Miller). They have either complicated psychological scenes (as in the typical BBC mini-series of the era) or these mysterious carefully poised stills.

What would have been done in the later 1980s through 90s? The ambiguous sexuality of Robert Acton would have been brought out. He’s one of James’s many closet homosexual males. The Countess’s demi-monde world would have been shown somehow. The film-makers would have made some attempt to address the question of money, class, religion more directly and for our own era. More stars would have been hired, and in the 1990s just about all of them be conventionally beautiful types. Lavish budget, naturally.

In 2000 we’d see a retreat to minimalism, much less historical accuracy and change of costume to be more like the 21st century. Much less money, and more addressing of contemporary issues and more daring interpretations of the original book. We see this in the latest Austen Persuasion, 2007: our protagonists are abject, possessed by grief and despair, revenants.

But not until the later 1960s or after the later 1980s, do we get for its own sake just this kind of pictorial extravaganza in the sun (Daisy Miller) just for itself:

Cyril Shepherd as Daisy looking up to where Mr Giovanelli is pointing

As well as this kind of extravaganza of fall leaves, golden, yellow with Lee Remnick as the isolated demi-monde who keeps herself out of the spotlight, to the side:

This was an extraordinary moment in art costume drama, and it’s been brought back in Sandy Welch’s 2009 BBC/WBGH Emma where I hope by next week over on my Reveries under the Sign of Jane Austen to show simplicity has been made to substitute for too overt or heavy stylization, but a lot of the other techniques of this era have once more been brought into effective play.

Garai as an assertive Emma, her upper arm sexy like that — in a quiet way.

The camera swings round to show his intense grave face

Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller as Emma and Mr Knightly. For most of the dance at the Crown Inn, it’s matter of the rousing non-sexualized square-dance boisterous movement and gaiety; but for a few moments there is a dance in the traditional row style with the arms of the male and female intertwined, very dream like and erotic and yet grave. But today still contemporary issues are being addressed at the same time as more traditional interpretations of the original book brought back.

After I wrote the above, I watch the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala film adaptation of E. M. Forster’s Maurice which is among the first of the opulent, relevant later 1980s to 2000 or so type; I had seen the 1991 BBC Clarissa as a landmark of this type (said to be so in several books too), but this Maurice does what the Clarissa film does. I was so moved; I love this later era too. I had thought we were in a different one now: minimal, retreat from contemporary issues, abject women (films from 2001-8), but this new Emma and Heidi Thomas’s BBC commentary adaptation of Gaskell’s Cranford of last year signal a new phase once again. I wonder if this new phase has anything to do with the reality that so many more women are writing mini-series; both these are by women writers and have women producers. Hmmm.


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Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), The Banjo Lesson (1893)

Dear Friends,

This is my last conference report of the East Central Meeting of ASECS in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I’ve treated of women writers, novelists (and marriage and family), the gothic (motherhood, Catholicism, and lesser known), not to omit Fanny Burney as an older woman. What I have left are a group of summaries of papers which swirl around the issue of how far the Enlightenment was enlightened. How far could radical people disseminate their ideas? Did such ideas influence many people’s behavior? I include the conference’s eloquent key note address on slavery; a brief account of the presidential address on gambling in religious group; a paper on the Zurich enlightenment and Samuel Gessner; and an original 20th century play focusing on William Blake’s relationship with his publisher, Joseph Johnson.

The subject of “Spiritual Middle Passages: Women and Religion in the African Atlantic Diaspora” is so terrible and horrible when I think of what was done to black people crossing the Atlantic and women slaves in the Carribean and western hemisphere, I really don’t have the heart to put a truly appropriate picture of it on my blog. The few prints I can bear to look at are all just too hideous: the prints which capture it best are those which show it to be much worse but very like what went on in extermination and slave labor camps in Germany in World War Two (not unique since this sort of thing begins to be documented during the founding of Australia on the backs of convicts and still goes on in camps around the earth). So I’ve prefaced the blog with a beautiful painting from the 1890s by the American realistic African-American painter, Henry Ossawa Turner where he depicts an aging poor black man lovingly teaching his grandson how to play a banjo. This would be many years after (30) after slavery had been ended by a ferocious war (so unwilling were slave-owners to “give up their property”) and during the era of ruthless discrimination, institutionalized injustice and ceaseless lethal poverty for most black people in the US.

Prof. Sensbaugh is an expert on the subject of African slavery; for this moving address (given Friday, Oct 9, 4:30 to 6:00), he researched in the archives of Lehigh University (apparently this is a good private college with a fine research library). He began by asking us to imagine what it was like to have been born on the sea from Guinea in a horrifying place deep down in the bowels of a slave ship; all around you are chained, beaten, raped, regularly humiliated for amusement (forced to dance on the deck of the ship, whipped), your culture stripped from you as you lost name, family, all connection with your memories, place of birth. Women were driven even worse than men because forced to breed children by their captors.

The Slave Trade

Until recently male slave experience was what was researched. Colonial planters preferred men as work horses. The documentation on the domestic private lives of slaves is fragmentary. Almost without exception the narratives written by people who were or had been slaves before the 19th century are by men: those who somehow escaped during the revolutionary war, who learned to write or read and were able to assert themselves (not as degraded as women who were turned into sex slaves). Women’s narratives date from the early 19th century (e.g., Sojourner Truth).

Mid-19th century photograph of a slave family

How to overcome this methodological challenge was part of Prof Sensbaugh’s speech: you have to trawl through archives of sales, colonial reports, tiny fragments found serendipitiously by wide reading in documentary records.
It helps to read several languages. A brief account in German in the archives of Copenhagen tell us of a woman named Rebecca Finder Prodder, a former slave in the Danish island of St Thomas, who in the 1730s married a white missionary who was jailed for sedition; she went to Germany and there widowed she married Christian Prodder, and then in her last 20 years lived on the African gold coast. He named and briefly described what we know of three to four more slave women. He said that from fragments you can build a story, e.g., one “old Elizabeth” told a child she would “look to God” and “in every lonely place I found an altar.”

He suggested that the Christian religion enabled women to join communities, extract some order from a hideously shattering experience, begin to regain some balance in their minds. They formed religious communities of women under the cover of Christianity and created lateral families. They became healers, diviners, prophets. He told of a petition a group of women were able to write (with the aid of an aristocrat on St Thomas) and send to the Queen of Denmark, of which we still have copies. They complained they were not allowed to worship; such moments formed a sanctuary for them. We can see that they did try to find some recourse beyond their cruel masters and that there were laws such masters were forced to obey. People who were masters could be deported and even executed by the authorities.

How effective was this petition? Apparently it’s very hard to say; they appear not to have been punished for sending the petition and it is still in the records in a creole language. From it we get a tiny sense of their lives and a personality dictating. Most of the talk afterwards was about this petition, the circumstances, who were the king and queen of Denmark at the time, the man who brought the petition, the languages used in Africa and the western hemisphere.

Geoffrey Sills’s presidential address, “Odds and Evens: Sacred and Secular Gambling in the Transatlantic 18th Century” was given after lunch on Saturday around 1:00 pm. He began by telling us the 18th century constitutes one of the great leaps forward in human history despite its manifest misogyny, use of slavery, oligarchic and monarchic governments, and neoclassic ideals. His subject was the early settlement of the Moravian community in Bethlehem under the aegis of Count Zinzendorf.

Zinzendorf organized the first Moravian community by setting up lotteries as a way of organizing the community in Bethlehem: not only were offices given out this way, and important decisions of various kinds made, but people who wanted to marry were forced (if they wanted to say in the community) to get the permission of the community first. This would force them to “marry in” and control the behavior of those who wanted to be approved of. It does seem that somehow while Zinzendorf was in charge most of the time these lotteries ended up doing what he wanted despite any chance outcomes.

Prof Sills then moved to how such lotteries spread in the 18th century and today too. He spoke at length of how Benjamin Franklin proposed a lottery to pay for military means of self-protection as well as support an Academy in Philadelphia: that academy eventual become the University of Pennsylvania. The lotteries did very well: people were willing to “invest” in them. It was seen as a benign activity God favored. Today many states have sanctioned legal gambling and use lotteries themselves to raise money.

Benjamin Franklin by Michael Deas (2003, a modern image for Time Magazine)

There were no questions afterwards which was a shame. It was a speech given just after luncheon but I have seen talk after such speeches. I didn’t have the nerve to ask about the enforced conformity of having to get permission to marry from a community. Modern lotteries seem to me a form of extremely regressive taxation and I have read the “founding fathers” deliberately eschewed lotteries which had been popular in various ancien regime states in Europe.

Another area people could have brought up is how now that the steel companies have long left Bethlehem, one way this town has sought to make a little money is to allow the old steel mills to be turned into a casino.

The old rotting steel mills

Bethlehem Slots
Today part of it a casino

Much of the town of Bethlehem is depressed; there are large swatches of extremely poor neighborhoods. Jim and I took a walk around and the most prosperous places where were the colleges (one a Moravian one) were. One can see that vast areas of the town were once prosperous working class neighborhoods where people owned their own small homes. No more. All one can see now are a few streets of picturesque shops, and a very few restaurants which remain open in the evening and have long lines of people waiting to get in. Most of these people look middle to upper middle class and drive in from the surrounding further away small opulent suburbs. Other than these colleges and shops the place is dead. No public world anywhere to be seen.

Such is American life and the American landscape today.

The question of how enlightened was the Enlightenment was part of the subject of John P. Heins’s talk on Solomon Gessner, a poet and painter and book illustrator in Zurich (on the panel “Research in Progress” on Saturday afternoon, 2:00-3:3:30). Gessner’s years were 1730 to 1788, he wrote Biblical and pastoral dramas, idylls, short prose works, Arcadian literature and seen as another Goethe in his interests and visions. His works were championed by Diderot. He did visionary landscape etchings where he celebrated Enlightenment figures and thought; many are mildly picturesque scenes, e.g., escapism with shepherds and shepherdesses: He was a prominent citizen with good connections; yet he was dependent on his family business to survive and his illustrations sold.

Prof Heins then went on to outline the nature of Zurich society. He said it was a repressed society, ruled by a small socially reactionary class and to protest against it you had to present your work and message quietly and indirectly. In the histories of the time this community and Gessner are usually celebrated, with Gessner living an idyllic life in a benignly-ruled Zurich. These stories feed fantasies of Alpine myths of an unspoiled landscape which gave rise to pastoral novels of the later 18th century [and much later children’s books like Joanna Spyri’s Heidi]. Only now are we beginning to explore the realities of 18th century Zurich. It was governed as an aristocratic repubilc, 10,000 people ruled by 2000 or 750 families, an oligarchy. There was strong enforcement of sumptuary laws, censorship, punishment by exile. Henry Fuseli was an exile from Zurich. Honest exposure of corrupt officials was punished. In 1750 Klopstock visited Zurich and composed a poem on the beauty of the natural world there; it was attacked for everything one can think of and he for being with unchaperoned women.

So when we look at Gessner’s career we see how remarkable what he did manage to publish and paint was.

The grave of Albrecht von Haller by Samuel Gessner

In the question period afterwards I cited the tragic life of Emily Kempin-Spyri who I’ve written about on this blog. A fictionalized memoir by Eveline Hasler reveals how impossible it was for Kempin-Spyri to live a fulfilled life, to work as a lawyer, and how she was eventually ground down and put into an asylum by her family. Hasler also wrote the life of Anna Goldin, burnt as a witch in 18th century Zurich (there’s been a film adaptation).

(There were two other papers and discussions of these but I was too tired to take proper notes.)

On Sunday morning (8:30 to 9:00), one session was offering an unusual treat. Ted Braun was chairing a panel where two original playlets were to be read, both by members of ASECS. Alas, the people who wrote and were to read them got sick the night before. However, with bravery and gallant spirits Ted and Brijraj Singh read the manuscript by Joseph Bryne aloud. It was titled “Mr Blake, how can I publish this ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell?’ (Being a dialog between William Blake and his publisher, Joseph Johnson).

It was very lively and consisted of back-and-forth talk between Johnson and Blake where Johnson protested that very few would understand Blake’s poems and the few who did would be horrified. What I found fascinating about it was that the interpretation given Blake’s works harked right back to an old scholarly classic, Martin Price’s To the Palace of Wisdom: studies in order and energy from Dryden to Blake.

Price’s book is not a book about how most of the people alive in the 18th century were anything but enlightened, but rather how the writers themselves understood the limits of (and themselves undermined) possible human adherence to ethics, tolerance, reason, common sense, the sympathetic imagination: ruins and visions, the picturesque, the deeper passions of the psyche are among the topics Price treated. I have an old copy in my house where I find I underlined many passages; it’s falling apart I read it so diligently once upon a time. Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is visionary satire, here is his first plate:


I’ll end this series of reports with two of my favorite passages of Pope’s poetry.

From Moral Essays 3, “Of the uses of riches:”

Once, we confess, beneath the Patriot’s cloak,
Fro the crack’d bag the dropping Guinea spoke,
And jingling down the back-staris, told the crew,
‘Old Cato is as great a Rogue as you.’
Blest paper-credit! last and best supply!
That lends Corruption ighter wings to lfy!
Gold imp’d by thee, can compass hardest things,
Can pocket States, can fetch or carry Kings;
A single leaf shall waft an Army o’er,
Or ship off Senates to a distant shore;
A leaf, like Sibyl’s, scatter to and fro
Our fates and fortunes, as the winds shall blow
Pregnant with thousands flits the Scrap unseen,
And silent sells a King, or buys a Queen.
Oh! that such bulky Bribes as all might see,
Still, as of old, incumber’d Villany!…

[What better describes how banks, powerful bi corporations, and military contractors now run the world?]

And from Moral Essay 1, “Of the character of mankind:”

Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds?
On human Actions reason though you can,
It may be Reason, but it is not Man;
His Principle of action once explore,
That instant ’tis his Principle no more.
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
Ye lose it in the moment you detect . . .
Nor will Life’s stream for Observation stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark the way:
In vain sedate reflections we would make
When half our knoweldge we must snatch, not take.
Oft in the Passions’ wild rotation tost,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost:
Tir’d, not determin’d to the last we yeild,
And what comes then is master of the field,
As the last image of that troubled heap,
When Sense subsides, and Fancy sports in sleep
(Tho’ past the recollection of the thought)
Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought:
Something as dim to our internal view,
Is thus, perhaps the cause of most we do …

Salomon Gessneridylls
From Samuel Gessner’s Idylls From online: “In his idylls, Gessner, who is indebted to Theocritus and Virgil, creates an idealized, orderly, almost horticultural state of nature, from which everything rough and craggy has been eliminated; his shepherds are similarly untouched by the ruder aspects of country life . . .


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Angelica Kauffman (171401807), The Muse of Composition

Dear Friends,

This is my fifth report on the smallish conference of 18th century scholars held at Bethelehem, Pennsylvania. It consists of reports on papers from three panels: on Saturday, “Bibliography, Textual Studies and Book History, Part I” (8:30-10:00 am), “Foreign Intelligences” (2:00-3:30 pm), and “Late 18th century writers” (3:45-5:15 pm). All were excellent; the women discussed are Anne Finch, Fanny Burney, Mary Brunton, Jane Cummings, Hester Thrale Piozzi, and Elizabeth Inchbald.

The 8:30 session on Saturday concerned the public image fostered by, and actual dissemination of texts by Anne Finch, Fanny Burney, and Mary Brunton. Michael Gavin’s paper, “From manuscript to Print: Criticism and the Poetry of Anne Finch” was about how Anne Finch attempted to rise above the detraction of writers by other writers in the local politics of the era.

Miniature of Anne Finch, at the court of Mary of Modena (1680s).

Mr Gavin argued that Anne Finch’s poems are “haunted by critics.” If we look at her prefaces in her unpublished books, we find a hyper-sensitive poet who invites her readers to share her feelings. For example, her “Introduction” justifies her authorship in the face of hostile male critics, and sensitive readers who read out of their own concern and psyche. She excluded polemical poems from her 1713 Miscellany by a Lady. His argument was the dynamics of literary factionalism got in the way of her writing good poetry.

Mr Gavin began by discussing some of Finch’s poems which were never attributed to her from the 1698 religious miscellany edited (or gathered) by Nahum Tate, and the 1701 Gilden Miscellany . It’s true her poems fit into Jacobitism, can be fit into religious polemic (even Whiggism — she is hailed by Nicolas Rowe in Gilden’s volume), and she is also a poetess of exile. Nonetheless, she wanted to stand outside the literary fields of battle. She was herself a translator as were numerous women in these eras when they began careers of writing. Finch’s prefatory fable for her 1713 volume, “Mercury and the Elephant,” was meant to symbolize this stance. If we want to understand the nature of her career as a poet, Paula Backscheider has described it in her book: dedicating one’s life to writing superior verse aesthetically. I’d add, ethically, as a therapy for herself.

The painted drawing room at Norbury Park (in whose environs Fanny first met Alexandre D’Arblay)

Catherine Parisian talked about “Frances Burney in America.” Although Burney never went to the US, her books were printed in American editions and attempts were made to distribute them. The talk was on the specifics of who published what in Philadelphia and NY. She was interested to show which edition (or text) was dependent on a previous one.

Big runs were 200-300 copies, and it did emerge that despite the high hopes of the publisher/bookseller in the US, no where near enough of Burney’s books sold to justify him continuing. There was a market for this kind of high-minded intelligent book by a woman which was not sexualized overtly (Camilla fits this bill perfectly) but they didn’t reach it.

Lady Anne Barnard, 18th century Scots painter, A landscape

Emily Friedman’s paper was on “Sacred Taboos: Mary Brunton’s Posthumous Packaging.” Ms. Friedman felt the titles of Brunton’s novels (Self-Control, Discipline) are meant as self-evident jokes, and that has been scanty attention given these complex works. Her first novel, Self-Control, is about a heroine who chases after a hero to American and sails down a dangerous river in a canoe. Discipline is a strongly Emma-like novel: a heroine’s mother dies and she has no one to teach her really properly; she is given a Miss Taylor as her governess (whom she bullies) and is left to fend for herself and her father.

Brunton’s last novel, Emmeline, a work not finished, now consists of a fragment published posthumously, together with a memoir of Brunton’s short life. (She died in childbirth at age 40.) This last story is of a woman who decides she no longer loves her husband, divorces him, remarries, but discovers she and her husband are not accepted by anyone around them, and remorse and guilt drive her to misery. What happens is the new husband leaves her. It’s only 100 pages, but reads like a novella in itself.

It’s a fascinating document; contemporary reviews are painful to read now if we recognize Mary Brunton in each of the novels and this one especially has painted herself and aspects or circumstances of her life under the guise of fiction.

Reviewers did excoriate the heroine and Mrs Brunton for writing such a fiction. (Having read Brunton’s Discipline I do know how she excoriates and moralizes over her heroine, and I wondered if this 100 pages is a better novel to us precisely because Brunton couldn’t finish it, and thus ruin her text.)

In the questions and talk afterwards Ms Friedman agreed that Brunton writes very much in a vein like that of Joanne Baillie, Susan Ferrier (Scots I mentioned earlier), and Jane Austen at one remove. I asked Ms Friedman about the value of Mary McKerrow’s biography, Mary Brunton, The forgotten Scottish novelist, 2000, and she said that its emphasis is on Brunton as a Scots writer but much is well-written and revealing. Ms Friedman said this biography is mostly taken from the memoir about his life that was published shortly.

I thought Mr Gavin wanted us to see that by analyzing Finch’s poetry from another stance than that of poetry, more of its greatness came out, and asked him what he thought of its melancholy and the aesthetics of the short romantic lyrics. As I’ve dedicated years of my life to putting her poems on the Net and writing about her his paper was of especial interest to me. I was glad to see him concentrate on the unattributed poems. Someone else pointed out how Finch was in a dependent powerless position, and one reason she decided to print only de-politicized poetry (fables mostly) in her 1713 volume was she could not do otherwise.

I didn’t say so but it continues to bother me that many of the papers and essays published nowadays take positions which enable the writer to avoid the topics of feminism, and the content of the writers’ depressions and troubles. Also this final publication of Brunton’s work by the husband consisting of unfinished works, a memoir and a shaping of the author’s life which moralizes it conventionally and slides under the rug anything that does not fit that moral reminds me of how Anne Radcliffe’s husband published a similar book about her: her posthumous (but finished) Gaston de Blandville, a memoir by the husband’s friend which includes large swatches of her poetic journals, and a moral portrait which erases a troubled solitary life.

Frances Singh told me about the paper she gave on a panel called “Foreign Intelligences” (at 2:00 pm on Saturday). The title of the paper was “Jane Cumming. missing in 1812.” I was not able to hear her deliver it, but would like to offer a summary of it here as it seems to me of real interest.

Jane Cumming was the illegimate daughter of an Indian officer who died and left a comment on her mother to the effect that she was an “evil woman.” At first Jane’s grandmother ignored her; then she had her picked up from school and sent to a training school. Someone said the teachers were lesbian and parents began to take their daughters from the school The school was ruined, and Frances brought out the terribleness of what people would say to one another is brought out.

Jane Cummings left a record of what happened, and it has not been lost to us because the story was picked up by Lillian Hellman for two film adaptations The Children’s Hour. Tellingly the first versions (on stage and in the movies) erased the possible lesbianism of the schoolteachers and the second (a 1960 movie) presented the two lesbians at the center very unsympathetically. The little girl who told is presented as a kind of spiteful fiend. Nowhere does the discourse allow for a discussion of the original blind egoism of Jane Cummings’s father (and erasure of her mother), narrow views of another human being of the grandmother, and then the realities of what would go on in a school and attempts at humane communication between people that say lesbian love might have been reaching for.

On my small list, Women Writers through the Ages at Yahoo, we spent a season reading women’s plays and discussing their films, and discovered that until very recently one group continually excoriated by the public and misrepresented with extreme hostility are lesbians. (The only group as much disliked are “bluestockings” whose stock has not gone up in the way of lesbians because they are not seen as wanting sex.)

The three papers read on the “Later 18th century writers” were all informative and perceptive. Lisa Berglund delivered hers in a lively way as well: it was on the marginal commentary in Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi’s Observations and Reflections of a Tour of France, Italy and Germany. Lisa first gave a brief resume of Piozzi’s life, ending on her last years as a widow, and her late-life “crush” on a young actor, Augustus Conway who at the end of his life committed suicide. One must remember how rich Piozzi was, and also how she said she was miserable during her many years married to Thrale and very happy during her years with Piozzi.

The Thrales’ West Street house in Brighton, photograph from 1865

In this commentary Piozzi is looking back on her life, and she is much franker, more personal, more concrete than in her published writing. She indirectly mirrors conflicts between Protestants and Catholics. Piozzi was treated viciously in the press when she married and when she published later in life. Lisa read aloud to us some touching daily passages she wrote out in both her earlier handbooks and this last one. Part of the point was to show us that the public presentation of Piozzie’s husband was bland and almost not there, but that in this commentary his personality comes across. The commentary in general then is in a way more valuable than the self-censored narratives in public. Lisa intends to published these for Valancourt Press.

The book is also a narrative of her life’s writing process, and Lisa gave out xeroxes of different stages of the writing from Piozzi’s diaries and papers and we looked at the changes Piozzi made as she wrote. It seemed often to be a process of crossing out, generalizing, alas, erasing.

Juniper Hall, where Fanny met her husband, Alexander

Lorna Clarke is working on Burney’s court journals, and her paper comes out of her study of these. What she showed us was how much fictionalizing and imagination went into this journal. Fanny’s process of writing her journals changed at various points of her life and each time her writing alters. Instead of a diary of her daily proceedings, in the 1780s, it became a memorandum which she can write up later. Her notes show she was often very belated so what we get is emotion recollected in tranquility. We could say of her years at court, they were not wasted but that she spent a good deal of the time writing and rewriting.

The major revealing point that Lorna made was Burnye’s texts are a record of a complex interaction of then and now in Fanny’s mind as well as of Fanny writing to someone and expecting a rely. The letters to Susan are a kind of realistic novel with many layers in them. Then very later in life (after her husband’s death), she is glad to keep a diary of retrospection all the while she kept to the epistolary technique. She had developed a mastery of these dramatic and epistolary techniques of writing to the moment. The product is then (in effect) a major novel since much is fictionalized by Fanny’s imagination at different stages of time: close to the event so and so most nearly like what happened, further off so elaborated, meant for Susan’s eyes so the perspective is shaped that way, and then later in life.

Lorna developed a chronology which seems to me to cover the ground and give insight into what we are reading. When you look at the different layers of what is there and how differently different parts were written, we have a fiction of great complexity as well as a rarely well-documents significant life. Hers was an extraordinarily good paper which if heeded could bring before us finally Burney’s journals in a light that would enable us to read them with modern techniques of literary analysis instead of as simply fodder for biographical papers.

Elizabeth Inchbald, frontispiece to British Theater, 1806

Beverly Schneller argued that we should regard Elizabeth Inchbald’s Catholicism seriously — as she does. Inchbald’s first biographer, lost his head (joke alert about superstition and fairy tale ritual here). Ms Schneller suggested that in Inchbald’s novels and prayers, she stays strickly orthodox. Inchbald was puzzled at the strong hatred Protestants for Catholics. She showed how in Inchbald’s life we have much evidence she went regularly to church and followed other Catholic practices, and then went over Inchbald’s fiction carefully, showing analogies with Catholic doctrine and practice. So that although Inchbald lived an unusually independent life for her era. she was at the same time conventional about religion and family.

Ms Schneller also emphasized the importance of Inchbald’s editing work for us today, how she was the mainstay of her family. One area that has been misunderstood is her brief relationship with her husband. He was not long-lived. Often it’s presented as something she was forced to do, the result of having to find a protector against sexual harassment. Ms Schneller wanted us to see the marriage as something Inchbald chose because the man was Roman Catholic.

Alas, there was not time for much talk afterwards. So I’d like to add this thought here perhaps the point of trying to argue for Inchbald’s serious adherence to Catholicism could be to aid us in interpreting Inchbald’s fictions, plays and some of her scholarship. In particular, for example, her Simple Story has a Dorriforth, a man who is a priest and characterized as severe and critical towards the frivolous social behavior of the heroine, Miss Milner. How are we to understand this? Perhaps Inchbald’s purpose was more than secular moralizing. I know when we read it on Janeites, I saw it as very much in the French tradition of manners of comedies only the insights into human nature were harsher and the dramatic narratives incisive and unusually powerful. The second half of the book occurs after the death of Miss Milner and swirls around his lack of a relationship with his and Miss Milner’s daughter, Matilda and himself, now a secular gentleman, Lord Elmwood. It’s a striking contrast to the first half as it’s a gothic novel usually justified as showing what are the results of bad education. Clearly this kind of rationale doesn’t begin to approach what is going on in this plangent — and half-crazy I should say — story of estrangement and despair. I never did get to putting up on my website the many postings a group of us wrote about this novel in 1998 and now I don’t know if I can because my files (wri files) often won’t open at all.

I end with another professional woman artist of this era:

Marguerite Gerard (1761-1837), Le chat angora — threatened by that hair brush!


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