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Archive for May, 2013

GosfordParkUpstairsblog
Gosford Park: Upstairs

GosfordParkDownstairsblog
Gosford Park: Downstairs,

Dear friends and readers,

Notwithstanding Rumor to the contrary, Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, both scripted by Julian Fellowes, are distinctively different movies. Here am I again about Gosford Park: a fine film about costume drama, whose signature music I offered two Sundays ago and again on Downton Abbey (see archives).

Robert, Earl of Grantham, the controlling Top Male whom all ultimately reverence in Downton Abbey, is a good decent man who keeps his word; he does not have a liaison with any of the servant girls. He means well; we are endorse all his decisions for himself and others. Sir Wm MacCordle, the controlling Top Male of Gosford Park and many investments, is a ruthless lying seducer, especially of working women around him dependent on him. In DA, everyone (even Thomas the homosexual footman and Miss Obrien, the old maid lady’s maid) is presented as having a good side, explicable by a sort of pop Freudian psychology, most mean well, most believe in the value of their job, the general order of things against which they may rebel, but then blame themselves as ungrateful. Godford Park is shot through and thought with knowledge of how demanding, careless of their health and needs, indifferent, utterly selfish, obtuse the upstairs people mostly are; the staff is sceptical, notes the hypocrisies, idle lives of their masters and mistresses, lack of lives of their own. Sir William is murdered three times over and his death upsets no one but his (foolish) worshipful valet.

Every one of the 16 stories (we have 16 major characters) in Downton Abbey is elaborately worked out; we are given many clues for each story; if the story is left to end ambiguously, by the end nothing is mysterious or merely suggestive. In Gosford Park, suggestiveness without elaboration is the key to presenting an interweave of 40 characters. The characters are glimpsed mostly as an ensemble, clues are sparse, lines which explain given only once and indirectly. Gosford Park therefore feels much much realer as we experience, each scene has so much piled into it (rich texture) you feel you could watch it so many times as you might read a book at least several times.

ScotlandUpstairsDanceblog
Downton Abbey: the upstairs group enjoys a Christmas dance

AthefairServantsenjoythemselvse
Downton Abbey: the downstairs group enjoying a day-long fair

Downton Abbey is a justification of the older hierarchical order of the world, with some counting far more than others; Gosford Park is an exposure of the anguish this giving power to a few males wreaks on everyone else, a perversion or out natural appetites.

The difference is the presence of Robert Altman to provide a counterweight to Fellowes’ arch-conservatism, to undercut, undermine, satirize Fellowes’ vision while showing it going on as if intact, only at the end the house is almost all closed up as all people but McCordle’s wife, butler, valet, are getting out as fast as they can to something they hope will be better for them. At the same time Fellowes provides a brilliant script psychologically and knows how to make effective filmic scenes.

Two closing moments can epitomize what I’m getting at: the last part of Season 1 where Lady Mary has gone a step too far: Matthew breaks it off and speaks from the gut as he realizes Mary is offering to marry him if she doesn’t get a better offer (supposedly actuated by Lady Rosamund); he has just nearly been kicked out by the prospect of Cora, Lady Grantham having a baby (stamped out by Miss Obrien)

DowntonAbbeyAStepTooFarblog

The moment the American producer nods to Elsie, ex-head parlormaid, kicked out upon breaking code and in front of all at the table showing herself to be the latest in a long line of Sir William McCordle’s mistresses; Elsie, I say, crosses over to his car where await her Igor Novello (songster, failed movie-maker) and the producer’s lover-companion, Denton. She’ll do all right after all – on her back — and as Mary (Lady Constance’s lady’s maid) closes the door on her we see Sir William’s dog has a berth in her case. Much said in this series of stills:

GosfordParkElsieJoinsHollywoodsetblog

The scripts of both read like novels. And their dramatic range and for suggested complexity of character both deserve to be awarded. The scripts of Downton Abbey read like stage plays, plenty of thought into the lines; sincerely believed in and imagined, not tongue-in-cheek; a landscape country house story of clashes within characters and across the tabooed lines between them. We have scenes omitted from the final cut.

EthelBreaksTaboo1blog
Big moment of shock when tabooed lines crossed

The scripts of Gosford Park reminded me of the game of Clue. The first page had thumb-nail shots of each character and their role/job and one characteristic; they were lined up against a tree connecting them to one another. This was a murder-mystery in which when we realized the usual suspects had done it (the young man driven to bankruptcy by McCordle, his ex-mistress housekeeper whose life & dreams he has blighted utterly; his bastard son who loathes him, we realized it didn’t matter and no one cared as it’s all a game we agree to play in order to be in the order, play a part. It also has stories omitted from the final cut.

directingTrafficblog
Someone matter-of-factly directing traffic: Mrs Wilson, housekeeper

I’m on my third viewing of Downton Abbey, and while I become so involved with the characters over and over and do see more psychologically, socially, I’ve managed to deepen the experience by attention to filmic techniques, by reading The Chronicles of … and The World of Downton Abbey, and now the scripts for the first season. I’ve now watched Gosford Park 6 times (!). I’ve now watched Gosford Park 6 times altogether: once in the movies, once when Jim downloaded a copy from Pirate Bay, and now 4 more times since I’ve gotten myself the DVD with the feature, two of these times with over voices, first just Fellowes and then Altman with his production designer and one of the producers.

To sum up, Altman’s presence has made GP shots so much more overflowing with information, story matter, and continually undermined any of the longed-for ideals both programs dramatize so the matter of these scripts feels inexhaustible; each time you watch the Altman you see more (40 characters about 25 stories in 2 and one half-hours, many of them hollow though deeply emotional); each time you watch Fellowes alone you see more fully the same thing but no more — what you see is what you get — and there is no undercutting that is not made explicit by Maggie Smith as sour Dowager.

Ellen

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Vanity_Fairjesterblog
Thackeray’s drawing of the jester-narrator of Vanity Fair

Dear friends and readers,

Over the last several weeks a few of us on Trollope19thCStudies read Trollope’s An Autobiography and, as a coda, his Thackeray. Trollope had spent the time of writing An Autobiography thinking about the relationship of his life to his fiction, and he carries on with a similar perspective in Thackeray. As his Thackeray is not much discussed, I thought an account of its parts might be welcome. It is much much better than those who have read it have acknowledged.

In The Cambridge Companion to Trollope, ed CDever and LNiles, Victoria Glendinning has an essay on Trollope as autobiographer & biographer and, unusually, deals with Trollope’s Thackeray and Life of Cicero. As she does in parts of her biography of Trollope, she says while Trollope clearly revered Thackeray Trollope’s tone is of a friend watching a good friend play tennis and “agonizing as he sees him knocking the ball into the tent.” It is true as she says though that Trollope is exasperated by Thackeray’s lack of work ethic, view of society, destestation of “snobbishness” (I’d call this in Thackeray hatred of what Thackeray sees as worship of rank and hierarchy), Thackeray’s “abnormally bad” characters (that’s Trollope’s view).

For those unfamiliar with Thackeray’s writing who are daunted by too many pages, you cannot do better than A Shabby Genteel Story and Other Tales, as edited and beautifully introduced by D. J. Taylor in the Everyman edition. A Shabby Genteel Story is a sort of Vanity Fair in little; Thackeray’s “Going to a Hanging” is included; as Hugo’s Last Day in the life of a Condemned Man presents the cruelties of the rituals & realities of state murder from the condemned person’s point of view so Thackeray exposes the crowd enjoying it. There’s “On Being Found Out,” good notes.

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william-makepeace-thackeray1811to63blog
Wm Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63)

The Introduction: Trollope begins by telling us he is hampered by a lack of papers and knowledge of Thackeray’s intimate life, so has determined to write a literary study, consisting of a brief general sketch of Thackeray’s life and character, and individual discussions of Thackeray’s writing. He makes use of whatever he has, including Thackeray’s friends’ memories. What Trollope creates is the picture of a successful literary career. Trollope was unusual for his time in presenting his own life as an author as a life of a career professional, and now repeats this perspective for Thackeray. This is how he puts his aim:

it certainly is not my purpose now to write what may be called a life of Thackeray. In this preliminary chapter I will give such incidents and anecdotes of his life as will tell the reader perhaps all about him that a reader is entitled to ask: how he became an author, and will say how first he struggled, and then how he worked and prospered, and became a household word in English literature; — in this way, he passed through that course of mingled failure and success which, though the literary aspirant may suffer, is probably better both for the writer and for the writings than unclouded early glory. The suffering no doubt is acute, and a touch of melancholy, perhaps of indignation, may be given to words which have been written while the heart has been too full of its own wrongs; but this is better than the continued note of triumph which is still heard in the final voices of the spoilt child of literature, even when they are losing their music. Then I will tell hew Thackeray died, early indeed, but still having done a good life’s work. Something of his manner, something of his appearance I can say, something perhaps of his condition of mind because for some few years he was known to me. But of the continual intercourse of himself with the world, and of himself with his own works, I can tell little, because no record of his life has been made public.

So we learn of Thackeray’s birth in India, his father’s early death and his schooling in England. Thackeray did not lose his fortune sheerly by gambling, dissolute life or incompetence; he invested in a magazine, a very difficult way to make money. We see Thackeray slowly through journalism achieve reputation and financial success. He does not write hagiography, but his evaluation of Thackeray is conditioned by memories of his own arduous struggle. So although Trollope speaks of Thackeray with the highest respect, he harps on Thackeray’s lack of diligence and procrastination=someone who will do it badly. At one point he says had Thackeray gotten a gov’t job he tried for (using influence and for the money) he’d not have had what it takes to get up early in the morning — the portrait is of himself. Trollope does bring in Thackeray’s suffering helped cause the procrastination. Trollope does not specify that Thackeray found urination very painful, probably the result of venereal disease, for which there was no cure and no painkiller but opium. Nor that this disease probably caused Thackeray’s early death.

Trollope’s way of describing Thackeray’s early career rings with truth: how hard it was to break in, how a connection led him to Fraser’s, how his style and genius was recognized. He says again how easy it is to begin being a writer, but to make a career how one must go step-by-step. Thackeray’s way was through journalism. I was impressed by the candour which states that Thackeray fulflled his potential utterly three times really: Vanity Fair, Henry Esmond, Barry Lyndon and in some of the character portraits beyond these books (Colonel Newcombe and literary life in Pendennis). There is a striking comparison of Thackeray with Dickens: Thackeray distrusted his talents and Dickens thought well of his; Trollope feels that the public liked Dickens immediately was not a sign his work was greater at all, and that Trollope’s sympathies are with Thackeray.

Trollope says that Thackeray’s great flaw is a kind of holding back, a refusal to say fully what’s on his mind, a failure to present his vision fully. I suggest some of Thackeray’s holding back is that he was afraid to offend by telling the truth so wrote gentle satire when it was in him to write satire more in Swift and Johnson’s veins. That is the implication of Barry Lyndon which is more like Fielding’s Jonathan Wild in outlook than Tom Jones.

Trollope also critiques Thackeray as an artist: his drawings highlight and visualize the spirit and tone of his books superbly well, but Thackeray can’t draw (with verisimilitude is what Trollope means).

So there is much here on Thackeray as such, irrespective of Trollope. All biographies are after all a picture of the subject through the writer’s mind. Trollope is much troubled by Thackeray’s cynicism and tries to argue he was not a cynic based on his kind heart and generosity to friends and family. To assert that the latter precludes the former is to misunderstand cynicism. Because you generally see the world in bleak hard and realistic terms does not mean you don’t love people; indeed a cynic might be more inclined to help his family (as we see Thackeray desperate to do for his daughters – that’s why he did the lectures which were distasteful to him, very) because the word is such a hard (mean too) place. The false formula comes from a negative view of cynicism. It reminds me of how people — often of religious turns — think atheists are not moral. They are. I’ve found that if a person is religious is not guarantee he or she will be decent or moral; their religion is function of their character not the other way round so many religious people use their religion to justify cruel and inhumane behavior.

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Thackeray in Punchblog
A Punch cartoon by Thackeray

Chapter 2: Fraser’s Magazine and Punch. Trollope’s as good as G. H. Lewes in pinpointing what is the central urge of his author’s texts as well as central techniques and use of just the right passage to convey these things. As Trollope says of Lewes’s limited audience, since few people themselves can see these things, this kind of writing often is not appreciated. Again Trollope is also judging Thackeray by his own conscious morality.

Since Trollope clearly enjoys Thackeray enormously and certainly understands his meaning, it may be suspected that without being able to admit it, Trollope sees the validity of Thackeray’s vision. Only Trollope won’t write it. He simply will not write a Catherine as the subject matter is so “deeply unpleasant.” He simply will not present the full amorality of society’s structuring, whether in the ancien regime with an aristocratic pattern the one lauded or after it with the bourgeous one. Trollope doesn’t approve of telling partly because he sees by telling you make what is — this cruel amorality — appealing, even if at end the hero ends up in a bad way (punished). Trollope sees the meanness of human kind as the real target of Thackeray’s snobs, but he says isn’t Thackeray “hard on people?” and they are having sparks of good nature and enjoyment while they behave in these phony ways. Trollope’s right that snobbery is hypocrisy and if you are genuinely wanting to show your luxuries, that’s not wanting to show them as a evidence of your status so as to definition yes the word snob won’t do, but it’s something else Thackeray is fueled by, and Trollope may be right that to make money Thackeray over-worked this vein, but the key here is Trollope doesn’t mind “the humbug” of people as much as Thackeray; he is not against snobbery, finds hierarchy and a climb up and satisfaction in that valid.

For myself everytime Trollope quoted Thackeray and I heard Thackeray’s words I agreed with Thackeray, e.g. “The Broker of the exchanges who bull[ies] … ” (p. 73) When Thackeray says ironically “it does my ‘art good” (p. 78) it is a kind Swiftian vision presented as utter good nature and makes me think of Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield. In each case Trollope analyses Thackeray’s texts to bring out their qualities. The opening with the satire on other novelists Trollope has picked passages which send up the very pith of what novelists had begun to claim was their genius: I’ve “fathomed the mysterious depths of the human mind’ (Trollope society edition, p 64). I love how Trollope marveled at how Thackeray was able to keep up the ironic stance of Barry Lyndon throughout (see paragraph beginning, “The marvel of the book … “, (pp. 72-73)

I rather enjoyed Trollope’s quotations. In the era presenting misspellings was seen as hilarious. There is a class-bias here, but I felt that Thackeray’s misspellings created satires of their own, on the concepts hypocritically supported, some were salacious puns. Stil this kind of thing is easily overdone — most modern readers seem not to have much tolerance for it.

There was only one place where I thought Trollope didn’t get it. The poem he quotes at length about a girl leaving home who almost kills herself. Trollope presents this as simply a ludicrous form of joking about a foolish girl (pp. 68-69). And perhaps consciously Thackeray presented it in this light — it’s quoted without its contextualizing story. But reading it myself straight it seems to me to have real feeling for this girl who wanted to escape and really wanted to kill herself but after all didn’t have he nerve and so went home to unsympathetic and dense people whose response was to “punish” her by depriving her of tea for a fortnight.

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becky_dollsblog
Thackeray’s character sketch of Becky Sharp — with dolls

Chapter 3: Vanity Fair. The chapter is much less wide-ranging and has fewer surprises than the previous. There is also not as much about Thackeray’s style in this chapter, but then he’d talked about that in the others. While it seems at first that Trollope has his doubts about Vanity Fair’s moral tendency and thus its value, by the end of the chapter, he has come round to say that the novel gives us a rich journey through the world where we learn something on each page; we see much of its evils and follies but are not allured (says Mr Trollope). First he follows Becky and is ironic himself over her continual successes: Trollope does not believe a Becky would have these successes and thus aims a quiet shaft at the book. He will have it that Becky did love at least a little her very stupid captain. Trollope cannot stand her at some level: over and over again we hear how false Becky is. His own Lizzy Eustace is a loser and not presented at all with any tenderness or identification. (He comes much closer to Thackeray’s Becky with Arabella Trefoil in The American Senator.

Trollope thus also half-disbelieves any man could be so besotted with Becky so Rawdon has got to be stupid. Trollope stands up for Amelia — even then most readers were frank enough to complain about the exemplary heroine – here Trollope does not seem to see that Thackeray is very ambivalent about
Amelia’s kind of goodness and he only quotes how Amelia gets her strong tree to twine herself about; he does not quote Dobbin’s disillusion with Amelia by book’s end and the sense that she’s a parasite on him. (That disillusion may be part of what fuels the ending of Gone with the Wind when Rhett finally gets Scarlett and looks at her and is not keen: “Frankly, my dear … “) But the world around them he cannot deny.

Dobbinblog
Dobbin (Philip Glenister) home from Waterloo, having left George Osborne dead on the field (1998 Vanity Fair, scripted Davies)

Trollope made me remember Andrew Davies very great 6 hour VF and want to re-see it. I feel that Trollope’s way of seeing Thackeray’s book is closely like that of Davies only Davies is not bothered by Becky’s amorality the way Trollope is. Davies’s idea of Pitt is just such another as Trollope’s Pitt and the actor who played it — David Bradley — perfect. Here Davies’ comic vein succeeds masterfully.

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Illustration for Pendennis by Thackeray
Thackeray: a sketch in Pendennis (colorized)

Chapter 4: Pendennis and The Newcombes. I really liked Chapter 4 better than Chapter 3 because I felt Trollope went into the heart of Thackeray more. There are a number of striking insights into the “condition” of Thackeray’s mind that arise from each of his accounts of the books he examines. Trollope does not go in chronological order in order to show us how The Newcomes comes out of Penndennis: like Trollope Thackeray has recurring characters in recurring partly imagined partly real landscapes across books, e.g., Pen is editor of Newcomes; Costigan a mean man (in every sense of the word) recurs. Trollope’s comment is Thackeray’s novels are all like “a slice from the biographical memoirs of a family” (p. 115)

A particularly good general insight: “A sardonic melancholy was the characteristic most common to him, — which, however, was relieved by an always present capacity for instant frolic” (p. 119) The passages Trollope chose to quote were to me like Arnold’s choice of touchstones. For example, on p 118 of the Trollope Society edition, beginning, “What’s the use of it all …” Where Trollope goes off: he’s displeased that Thackeray doesn’t follow conventions (!) and provide happy endings for admirable heroes and heroines. He, Trollope, often does not do this; I wish Trollope did it even less than he does. We have to remember it’s Trollope who thinks a character like Miss Quigley is an ass; Thackeray may not. (p. 117)

For my part I didn’t like Pendennis because I felt despite the satire Thackeray thought altogether too well of Pendennis as s an important type of male. Trollope is right that he’s selfish, worldly, false, padded, caring altogether for things mean and poor in himself. Nor did I like Dickens’s Pip nor Austen’s Emma. To me these characters are dream selves of authors who forgive them because of their social status.

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HenryEsmondfirstblog
Thackeray’s first illustration for Esmond: the boy: ‘Le pauvre enfant, il n’a que nous’
Chapter 5: Henry Esmond and The Virginians. Henry Esmond appears to be Trollope’s favorite novel, and he thinks it Thackeray’s finest masterpiece. Why? The psychological complexity, the genuine historical content (serious) and the distinctive true (not falsely sentimental) depiction of Esmond’s mother and Beatrice appeal. Trollope admires how Thackeray managed to invent a language that seemed later 17th century and was not pastiche, not false — though on the other hand, Trollope adds that Thackeray never “dropped” this tone and kind of style altogether later. He does use it in the sequel, The Virginians. (In another place Trollope said it was the problem of inventing a language redolent of 1790s French that defeated him in part in La Vendee.)

Trollope prefers HE to VF because of what he takes to be the lack of cynicism in Esmond: its gravity of tone. Trollope keeps emphasizing also that this is a planned book and that is most unlike most of Thackeray’s. (He, Trollope, planned his books and it’s rare — Framley Parsonage is one place — he began to publish a book before he finished it even if after FP he wrote his books as if they were all going to be published in instalment chunks – that was a way of shaping his narrative. Trollope does — as he does most of the time everywhere – avoid discussing the deep sexuality of Thackeray’s Esmond which has the central male loving his mother and marrying her.

I should mention how much I liked Henry Esmond. We’ve read and discussed it twice (!) on Trollope19thCStudies and if anyone cares to you can find weekly postings on it there. Judy Geater put many of the original illustrations into an album. While it’s heavily indebted to Scott (17th century Scotland is part of it), it’s not about politics but private experience, inward. Andrew Sanders has a good chapter on this novel in his Victorian Historical Novel, 1840-1880.

ThackeraysBeatriceblog
Thackeray’s image of Beatrice come to womanhood

For the concluding three chapters (6 & 7, 8, and the conclusion), see comments.

Ellen

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The key to the whole is power. This can be seen by reconstructing the necessary context the novel creates for itself, which is the political map of Barsetshire — Bill Overton, of Framley Parsonage, The Unofficial Trollope

a book which might better have been called ‘The Chronicle of a Winter at Dillsborough’ — Trollope’s narrator, The American Senator

DillsboroughasDrawnbytheGerouldsblog
Dillsborough

Dear friends and readers,

This week on Trollope19thCStudies, I was asked some good questions:

When you have time, will you explain to us just what you mean by “mapping.” I admit I thought you meant you were making maps of the fictional places in the Barset novels … Is it just noting the places these authors mention in their novels? Is it like the scholars who make maps of the journeys through the streets of Dublin that the characters in Ulysses make? Could you give us a definition and what you believe the purpose or benefit of mapping is.

I’ve used the occasion to get down some of my thoughts towards my paper. One of the purposes of this blog is to work out thoughts towards scholarship projects. I write to know what I think. (E.M. Forster — “How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?”; Edward Albee — “I write to find out what I’m talking about.”) I’ve now read the four books I’m focusing on, each chosen because of its creation or use of a map: Castle Richmond, Framley Parsonage, Phineas Redux, and The American Senator, and I’ve found what are going to be my foundational texts. The above header is going to be its title.

So, to answer the question, the first thing I did was go back and look over 3 of these foundational texts, all by Franco Moretti: — Atlas of the European Novel, Signs Taken for Wonder, and a chapter called “Maps” in his Graphs, Maps and Trees. I didn’t find a definition of mapping. According to the Concise Oxford: a map is 1) a diagrammatic representation of an area or land or sea showing physical features, cities, roads; or 2) a dialogue or collection of data showing spatial arrangement or distribution of something. One critic (Jerome Thrale on The Last Chronicle of Barset) argues that Trollope structures his books not by his stories and plots but by juxtaposing areas and groups of characters; it is a spatial order we have in Last Chronicle of Barset and I think that’s so for The American Senator, and I can think of other novels by Trollope which lend themselves to this kind of movement — he goes from place to place to introduce us to each set of characters. The third definition has to do with genes and biology so I skip it, just ending on the common place truth that we talk metaphorically about mapping all sorts of things.

In Atlas Moretti “mapped” the European novel several ways. He demonstrated to his satisfaction at any rate that England and France were dominating places for the development and dissemination of the realistic novel of the 19th century: it was in these societies they were written because the society lent itself to the typical themes of such novels, such as following an individual career in society, marrying for love which may be regarded as a career choice for women. Also these societies had over the 18th century developed small cottage industries of printing, selling, disseminating such books — the printing and distributed and making of money for writers and publishers grew by leaps and bounds because of advances in technology. Between the two language bases and land masses (French and English) there was also a constant flow back and forth of novels in the original and translation — as well as non-fiction books (travel books for a start).

As part of this Atlas Moretti wrote a chapter where he mapped the stories and characters of the books of several writers. One small section for Jane Austen began it — her map is small, self-contained; she chooses only a small part of even southern England and within that is further selective. Now what has happened is her presence through films and a cult has spread to the point that many readers like to assume the worlds she presents are coterminous with the world of the England in the 18th century. They go so far as to write books where they basically franchise — or do research — within Austen and create a 20th or 21st century Austenland.

Much larger were the worlds of city-dwellers and Moretti’s authors of choice are emphatically Balzac and Dickens. Prelude to these were writers like Bulwer-Lytton (the silver-fork novels of the 1820s, which Trollope read as a young man). What Moretti shows is that when characters in Balzac and Dickens novels move from one place to another they are moving within fields of power. As with Austen, though it’s less noticeable, they are selective; you think you are in a map of London or Paris, but you are not. You are in choice spots. The story of the novel – its narrative — is a story of movement from one place to another and back again.

In Signs taken for Wonders Moretti shows the plot-structure of Balzac’s novels follows his characters’ movement from one site to another where there is a gain or loss of power. Enthralling plots can come from such ordinary experiences. Streets are not where social experiences that matter take place; important experiences are in offices or houses; the characters are ignorant of the larger place they live in except as a route from one site to another. Finally characters can be ruined by other characters they’ve never met (might not have heard off), and they are treated as transformed by the place they live in.

In his chapter “Maps” Moretti compared imagined maps of Mary Mitford (Our Village) and Elizabeth Gaskell (Cranford), which he drew after reading these books, with the Parisian maps by Balzac and and rural Scottish maps by Galt (Annals of the Parish), and real rural maps (in John Barrell’s book on landscapes). As opposed to real maps and maps by Balzac, Mitford and Gaskell did not try to map routes out of their district to cities or towns outside these where things might be gotten that are not in the village; instead in Mitford’s village and Gaskell’s Cranford, most roads lead round and round the village or Cranford; we see one of two go outside but they are drawn only so far as the place. We do not want to go out to the city unless it has something we need for real and can’t get in their village or Cranford, and this is apparently rare.

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VictoriaEmbankment1875blog
Photograph of Victoria Embankment, 1875 (a place and project used in political campaigns in the Palliser novels)

My thesis is Trollope was doing what Moretti says Balzac and Dickens (and Austen and Hardy too) did. The story of Phineas is just such a narrative as Lucien de Rubempre. Trollope is as selective as Balzac and Dickens only he selects up — as does Balzac. From what I’ve been reading Balzac is more all encompassing than either Dickens or Trollope say, but it may be those I’ve read (Graham Robb) write, like Moretti, out of strong admiration for Balzac and love of his books. Balzac encompasses much in Paris, really maps a lot of it. And yet some is imaginary; some are imaginary places. Trollope though has parallels with Austen — a prediction for the gentry in the country — and anticipates Hardy in that his characters do move out of their county life and into towns and cities and far away.

So first Castle Richmond and Trollope’s Ireland. Trollope lived for 18 years in Ireland and all over the place or at least several quite disparate places in Ireland: he first came to the midlands (Banagher) but he moved south and south west (mostly Kellys and OKellys occurs here, but also Dublin); he then moved to the North (Landleaguers); also he lived in Belfast; and he summer vacationed (so to speak) in the far west (where An Eye for an Eye takes place).

Not only did he live in disparate places, he literally mapped the place by setting up mail routes and riding over these again and again. He sat and made postal routes — maps. During the time he was writing the The Warden he was in south west England mapping postal routes and part of the impulse was his seeing Salisbury Cathedral now as a part-outsider who had to return to Ireland when this period of his “real” mapping of England ended and he and Rose moved to Dublin.

Roughly speaking his 5 novels which explicitly take place mostly in Ireland (An Eye for an Eye has scenes in England), Phineas Finn and Redux and the two Anglo-Irish stories take place all over Ireland. The question is, should I concentrate on this. What I have read (by Mary Hamer) is what I suspected may be true of his London maps (Pallisers territory): Trollope creates worlds for his novels which seem coterminus with real worlds we experience, but are filled in with imagined places to the point that you cannot quite map Trollope’s worlds with say southeast England, or London, or, for that matter, southwest Ireland of the other cities in the world he imagined so concretely. The problem here is I’m obsessive and once I started on mapping Ireland in Trollope’s books it would take me months to do it right. And that kind of detail is not wanted — even most of the time by most people. It’d be like my Austen calendars.

My guess is if the Anglo-Irish novels were filmed we’d have travelogues of Ireland. Thady flees to the mountains in Macdermots, the desolate countryside is an actor in that novel; the hero in An Eye for an Eye is murdered by a cliff; the lovers have their trysts out of doors by the seacoast of western Clare; a mass meeting in Dublin opens Kellys and OKellys; murder and clashes occur outside courthouses in Landleaguers. Castle Richmond is southwest but it’s more a matter of contrasting houses (so an Anglo-Irish Ascendency landscape), and London where Herbert Fitzgerald realizes how low his status now is by his experience of the city and where he lives.

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Nichols’ reconstruction of Barsetshire (found in Sadleir)

Trollope also invents or maps places onto places already there. He invented Barsetshire which he tells us is a combination of Dorsetshire, Somersetshire, and Sadleir (p. 164) adds Gloucestershire, Wiltshire. He invented it unclearly at first, but by Dr Thorne it begins to be a place called East Barsetshire and by Framley Parsonage he makes a map. The Small House of Allington he once excluded from the Barsetshire books apart from its lack of a clerical theme, it takes place in Guestwick, an invented county next to Barsetshire.

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Allingham: Trollope is careful to delineate the relationships between the small and large house and their grounds

What should be emphasized is insofar as Trollope is read and his maps believed, his books skew our understanding of place. There are people alive today reading these Barsetshire novels who will call them accurate — when for example, such abysmal poverty is omitted. At the time they had a striking actually partly because Trollope set them in contemporary UK (Scotland as well as England), refers to real events going on at the time. I suspect Angela Thirkell’s books reinforce this and erase the real poverty, real middle class lives today.

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Bragdon Estates (drawn by Geroulds), next to Dillsborough in An American Senator

Turning to The American Senator, it’s a newly developed countryside but I have not come across any criticism or scholarship which names a specific place as the one Trollope had in mind. What I have discovered here is a minute geography of power. As in the Palliser novels across the board of London within the small district of Dillsborough, its outlying area and Bragton estate, as well as the estate of Mistletoe which Arabella Trefoil visits, depending on where you are, and what you are doing you are constrained to do to feel this, you are situated, you have status or not. The very dinner tables are geographies of power. Small House of Allington opens up with same sort of intricate detail of space and place (see above) and it all may be interpreted as to status, but there is also an idyllic romancing going on, nostalgia for past where gentry embedded with its church, tenants, nearby village.

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Pallisers 8:17: What Lord Fawn saw (from Phineas Redux)

In my proposal I did tell of how when I went to an Trollope Society AGM in London in 1999, we went on 1 of 6 circuitous detailed maps drawn from the Pallisers books, but which had locations for characters across Trollope’s whole oeuvre as well as from Trollope’s own life as far as we know it. We walked round Trollope. The route chosen was the one that the Rev Emilius followed in order to murder Fawn and the one Phineas followed to get home that night. What I’ve got to do here is access the accuracy of the routes obsessively gone over and over of say Bonteen’s murder and see how accurate or inaccurate they are, and I’ve been asked to review a book that may do just that: Emelyne Godfrey’s Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature has a chapter on the street life of the Phineas books.

My hunch is while in the main Trollope is accurate, as in his Irish maps, he also departs imaginatively so as to make points about status, the characters, thematic sites. It’s telling that these scenes and streets have been filmed — in the Palliser parts covering the murder and trial. The Phineas Redux material in Pallisers contrasts a pastoral interlude of Gerard Maule and Adelaide Palliser riding in a city park (a kind of generalized convention and not taken from the book which contrasts London with the warmth and congeniality of Harringon Hall and its hunting in Trumpeton wood).

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A bucolic park where Fawn and Adelaide walk, and Maule and she ride together (Pallisers 8:17)

There was some shooting on location for the time in the 1974-75 series, but it was a time when little of this sort of thing was done (the Poldark series was a singular exception and the use of Cornwall and shooting on location was no small part of its success); if you do look at Davies’ recent films of TWWLN especially you see an attempt to get the streets in, but they are not differentiated, situated with respect to one another, nor imitative of what’s in the novel.

(There are also illustrations by Millais showing Phineas leaving the Bunces and taking up residence in a gentleman’s part of London overlooking a park; that is filmed in the earlier parts of the Pallisers from Phineas Finn.)

So that’s where I am.

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Posy Simmons’s Cranford, from end papers of Cranford Chronicles (modelled on Thomas Moule’s 19th century The County Maps of England, see Southern England)

I’ll conclude so many books sell popularly when publishers include maps I’m ever startled by how parsimonious they often are about these. The books of the filmed Cranford Chronicles had as papers Posy Simmonds exquisitely picturesque maps and if I could remember I know I’ve read about how Gaskell slowly invented that countryside and where it relates to.

Writing this blog has helped me be less afraid I’m not getting anywhere. I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew and so think a separate paper to be published just on the Irish novels is something I could do in future but would take too long here and not be appropriate. But I could as an exhibit myself try generally to draw one just to show — to have something to show as I won’t be doing a power point presentation. Jim is not up to it and I can’t do such things myself.

Ellen

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Susannah Buxton, Costume designer for Downton Abbey

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Caroline McCall, Assistant Costume Designer (from Feature on Season 1 DVD)

Dear friends and readers,

Last night I find myself again regretting that the older Poldark films have never been produced on DVDs with features with talk from the film-makers and actors; there has been no voiced-over commentaries with slowed-down parts, or any of the kind of commercial paraphernalia a sociological event best-seller of the Poldark type have begun to accumulate around them since the later 1990s. Here we do have some real use for the fandoms who might be said to serve as a tangible target for money-making on the Net. Beyond Graham’s Poldark’s Cornwall, only part of which was about the mini-series, the only book produced was Robin Ellis’s Making Poldark, now in a third reprinting, most of it the same text he originally produced (it has autobiographical additions and better stills).

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From recent DVD feature on The Haunting (see review)

It may be much of the original cast is now dead (most of the principals are), but I’ve listened to and watched a DVD of the 1963 Robert Wise film of Shirley Jackson’s Haunting, where what was left of directors and writers and the cast produced intelligent insightful features and voice-over commentary — I took substantial notes on how the film was made. I suspect Poldark as a film still suffers from its original labeling as “swash-buckling soap opera,” and its not having had a widely-prestigious and single auteur type (instead many directors, writers, directors). By contrast, Downton Abbey now has had at least two books (The World of, The Chronicles of) and the first of three projected scripts produced.

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Extras dressed right, intermingling make for fuller seeming reality (The World of discusses the making of such scenes)

Since I last wrote about Downton Abbey I’ve re-watched all the parts of the first season, read the playlets or scripts for all but the seventh part of the first season, and begun slowly to re-watch the parts again this time with voice-over commentary. Here is a little of what I’ve learnt about the power of these films (and by extension other costume dramas). I should say that I can stay up to all hours watching, absorbed, interested, enjoying them more; they take my mind off my recent intense anxiety. Reading the scripts reveals unexpected depths and parallels; cut scenes add much; Fellowes’s notes are ironically instructive. The voice-over commentary and especially watching the film move slowly gives you a chance to see how carefully each shot was cut, shaped, contextualized. We get the personal urges of Fellowes again and again — perhaps that’s the key to the strength of this and other films, this psychosocial projection drama.

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The scripts in general

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The pathos of Molesley’s father so grateful is seen in several of the older lower class males (Matthew’s father)

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Gwen the parallel figure who needs encouragement

Part 1 as I said was introduction, by Part 6 I saw that hours that seemed centrally silly (it ends on the flower show) when read silently and slowly as with a novel, come out touchingly suggestive. Much of what’s omitted hurt the programs: when in Part 4 Miss Obrien brings Daisy to confide what happened in Mary’s room (how soap opera this kind of sentence is) in the program the camera cuts away. We know what Daisy has to tell. In the script Edith is very kind to Daisy; we hear here how Daisy has been suffering under the harassment and insults of Mrs Patmore and how in need of some comfort she is (quite apart from seeing the dead corpse pulled along), and Edith does provide this. It’s double edged as Edith now (understandably I think) wants to get back at Mary for needling her over Strallan and Matthew but it is real and a parallel to Sybil helping Gwen.

Matthew comes out as ambiguous throughout, far more questionable at times, in his mockery of Edith and his sidling up to Mary; he is as complicit and collusive in this penultimate part (supposedly unimportant) flower show hour as his mother with her overt pressuring of Violet to give up the prize. The Chronology of DA emphasizes origins of characters and how Fellowes sees them. As Matthew moves away from his supposed love, Lavinia, he has a peculiar expression on his face:

NotUpfrontblog
Ever harboring guilt, Mary appeals to his less noble side

In several skeins of interweave it’s not too much to see that there is a Chekhovian rhythm to this hour as written up (like some of the earlier film adaptations, say 1983 MP) which is wholly lost in the actual realization’s quick pace.

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Staring at and covering the corpse

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Conspirators

Part 3 is hectic: This is the one where Lady Mary goes to bed with Pamuk and he drops dead while (presumably) trying to fuck her. It is also the one where Gwen’s desire to be a secretary is outed by Miss Obrien exposing the typewriter which Mrs Hughes says Gwen has no right to keep in Gwen’s room. The room is not Gwen’s, not even the bed she sleeps in is hers in private. We also have Mr Bates trying to escape the mean teasing and attempts to fire him by wearing a contraption that is torture.

In Fellowes’s notes he shows he realizes Mary is dense (he mentions her surprise anyone could not want her), but he is more concerned he says that viewers wrote in because they thought what was implied was (wait for this) Pamuk buggered Mary (!). Lines had been left out about her losing her virginity and what to do about it and so now he was sorry these were left out. My sense that people hardly ever say what they think and what is presented as mainstream thinking is utterly shallow was confirmed. I admit I had not thought of that – that he forced anal intercourse on her would have hurt and shocked her perhaps and she would not have so regretted the loss — but did think maybe we were to see Pamuk could go with men or women and that’s really why he was with Napier.

This time I’m confirmed in the idea that Mary is a real horror, cold and mean (she could care less about what Gwen is doing with her life) and Pamuk a cad. The irony is that Mary doesn’t see that Napier was a good candidate for her, showing really she doesn’t deserve him. I felt again for Edith, though she shows no compassion or concern for anyone but herself – as Sybil does trying to help Gwen who really despairs in her heart anyone will want her as a low person originally. In his notes to this scene Fellowes confirmed he was aware that the lower class person would not dream he or she could succeed and thus probably would not. It did seem to me the throwing away of the awful contraption is the equivalent of getting rid of the corpse of Pamuk and somehow connected to the typewriter — all sources of guilt, harassment.

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Gwen after having been berated, told she had no right to have this in her room, ostracized, takes away her offending property

In the script to the fourth part, Fellowes thinks the film-makers omitted the whole of the scene below. But watching I find they hadn’t. I begin to wonder how much he worked on his notes — fact-checking is non-existent that I’ve seen. But at any rate I scanned it in because I found it touching. Maybe it was intended to omit it and the last minute put back. t was “not needed” — as part of the action. I reprint it to show that the plays as written in this book show 1) the show was not conceived by Fellowes as tongue-in-cheek at all, and 2) they all thus far make Grantham our hero of decency, fairness, even egalitarianism of a paternalist sort. It anticipates Lord Grantham believing Bates innocent later on, and when Bates returns from prison telling him to take some time off, rest, read books, go into the library:

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Upon being invited to take books out and read them, Branson becomes animated and tells his favorites

3 INT. LIBRARY. DOWNTON. DAY.
Robert is working, with Pharaoh at his feet. Carson enters.
CARSON: You wanted to see the new chauffeur, m’lord.
ROBERT: Yes, indeed. Please bring him in.
Carson nods and a young man, in his thirties, appears. This
is Tom Branson. He is attractive and polite. Carson leaves.

ROBERT: Come in, come in. Good to see you again …
Branson, isn’t it?
BRANSON: That’s right, your lordship.
ROBERT: I hope they’ve shown you where everything is?
And we’ve delivered whatever we promised at the
interview?
BRANSON: Certainly, m’lord.
ROBERT: Good.
Robert nnds him rather an interesting character.
ROBERT: How did you first come to be a chauffeur?
BRANSON: My father was a tenant of Mrs Delderfield’s and
I was apprenticed to the chauffeur there. But he’d been
a coachman and he didn’t have much feeling for cars. In
the end, the mistress asked me to take over.
ROBERT: Won’t you miss Ireland?
BRANSON: Ireland, yes, but not the job. She was a nice
lady, but she only had one car and she wouldn’t let me
drive it over twenty miles an hour. So it was a bit …
well, boring, so to speak.
Which makes Robert laugh. Branson looks around.
BRANSON: You’ve got a wonderful library.
The remark does not offend Robert but it does surprise him.
ROBERT: Are you interested in books?
BRANSON: Not in books, as such, so much as what’s in
them.
A reading chauffeur? Unusual. Robert thinks for a moment.
ROBERT: You’re very welcome to borrow books, if you wish.
BRANSON: Really, m’lord?
He is astonished and delighted. Robert nods.
ROBERT: There’s a ledger
use, even my daughters.
room’s empty.
BRANSON: Do all the servants enjoy the same privilege?
ROBERT: I suppose they could, although I doubt they’d
avail themselves of it. Carson and Mrs Hughes sometimes
take a novel or two. What are your interests?
BRANSON: History and politics, mainlyROBERT: Heavens.* Well, when you come
back, you should
start looking in that section, there.t
Carson has reappeared at the door.
ROBERT: Branson’s going to borrow some books. He has my
permission.
CARSON: very good, m’lord.
Does Carson approve? Probably not. He looks at Branson.

*********
Typical notes by Fellowes:

The Irish troubles were a hot topic throughout this period, much more even than in the 1970s. We remember the Suffragettes and the emergence of the unions, but in fact if we’d been alive at that time the front page would have been dominated by Ireland, so here Branson is bringing those troubles to Downton. Because, by this stage, the show had developed its own method of dealing with these things. We don’t usually introduce famous characters like Lloyd George or Curzon or De Valera, but we allow our characters to refer to political events and scandals and things that were happening. To achieve this, to make the Crawleys and their servants aware of what was going on, I had the idea of bringing in an Irish chauffeur who was political and a republican. He is not active, in the sense of being a freedom fighter, but he is energetically pro-independence for Ireland. It seemed to me that such a chap would allow us to talk about the topic without its seeming contrived. I also thought – although only vaguely when I was writing this episode – that we might have a cross-class romance at some point and so it seemed a good idea that he should be young and handsome, whether or not we actually did anything with it. The actor who plays Branson (Allen Leech) had worked with me and our producer, Liz Trubridge, on a film I wrote and directed, called From Time to Time. He impressed us both and he had a kind of gritty, very real sort of good looks, as opposed to the face of a film star, which is more useful in this kind of drama.

I was sorry they cut this section, when Robert invites Branson to borrow books. It was taken from Below Stairs by Margaret Powell, whose memoirs of a life in service have just been reissued, for which I wrote the preface. She takes a fairly jaundiced view of the world but she was operating in smaller
households than Downton, where she was only one of two or three servants and they worked like dogs. But, once, she does go to a grander house on a temporary basis to replace a cook, and there all the servants were encouraged to borrow books from the library. When I read it, I thought it was rather a
nice touch and quite Robert’ish. Since I knew it was based on truth I was looking forward to being attacked but in the event it was cut. Naturally, Carson can’t bear the idea.

Carsonblog
Carson as seen in the scene below

BRANSON: Is that all, m’lord?
ROBERT: It is. Off you go and good luck.
Branson goes, leaving master and butler alone.
ROBERT: Well. An Irishman with an interest in politics …
Are we mad?
CARSON: I could always bring in fire drill for the staff.
ROBERT: Thank you, Carson.
They share the moment.
ROBERT (CONT’D): He seems quite a bright spark after poor
old Taylor.
Carson is not prepared to volunteer an opinion. Yet.
ROBERT: I always thought he was happy. Why did he want
to leave?
CARSON: I believe it was Mrs Taylor, m’lord. She felt
cut off. She wanted to live in a town.
ROBERT: But running a tea shop? I cannot feel that’ll
make for a very restful retirement, can you?
CARSON: I would rather be put to death, m’lord.
ROBERT: Quite so. Thank you, Carson.
with a glance at the dog, he returns to his letter.

Amusedblog
Lord Grantham amused

I liked the joke too, now this tea-shop part was omitted

One of the many things I like about serial storytelling is how a later part harks back to the earlier. In Part 4 we also get the slowly developing love of Anna for Bates; we saw her pity for him, her respect, her bringing him a tray when she and he thought he was fired, and she watched him cry; now in this episode he brings her a tray during her bad cold and in the script we can read the scene slowly.

It’s through this syntagmatic (is the word) development that these series gets their depth. Of course it contrasts to Mrs Hughes giving up her love, Daisy making an error in falling for the lesser man, Thomas. All brought together in the moment of ferocity when Bates threatens Thomas for needling and mocking William, that foreshadowing the reality of his pent-up violence … he is the one real justfiably angry man of the series.

The script to Part 6 is a deepening of the seriousness and suggestivity of the Scripts 1-5. You really feel for example how the relationship between Branson and Sybil has a genuine basis in their natures, their predilections, his reading (John Stuart Mill you now see), her ideals. Talking seriously:

IntheCarblog

The show does not have enough time and is in a way — however paradoxical this is — too effectively presented dramatically. You lose the hidden novel in the quick-paced creamy-pop appeal that all the filmic techniques project.

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Downton Abbey 1:1: from the voice-over commentary

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Crowborough frantically rifling Thomas’s drawers in search of their love-letters; POV the naive Lady Mary

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Bates coming upon them, ironically offers to let them investigate his room, upon which Lady Mary apologizes out of her habit for doing so when she’s in the wrong

As I wrote, it was not until I watched very slowly, this time having read the script, clicking and snapping on the stills and then studying them (the way the film is put together) that I realized the real motive for the Duke of Crowborough’s visit was to go up to that attic and snatch back his love letters to Thomas Barrow.

In the case of this series, part of my absorption is a kind of fascinated horror at what the whole thing reveals about what audiences like, what they think when they are watching — for in the scripts Fellowes includes many notes telling of what viewers have written to the film-makers. The commentary has
Fellowes and his partners (the producer for season 1 and director of this part) continually upholding this fantasy world as good and wonderful and real (so from the point of view of understanding the film dead wood), a kind of bland hypocrisy, their “job” whatever hype is expected they’ll utter.

Fellowes is the best of the three because he really believes in what he is presenting and is unashamed. Amid or sometimes after his fatuous kinds of naive statements he will suddenly say what he intended to do in a scene, comment on how he sees the actors, what they are doing, why this one is dressed this or that way (costume so important in costume drama). Two examples, when near the close Anna visits Bates with the
tray of food all three suddenly say these are their ‘favorite pair’ and there is suddenly a discussion of the lighting, the words (which insist he’s going to be fired), the depth of feeling in the scene, the lighting. As important in these
over-voice commentaries, the scene moves much slower.

The paired scenes sandwiching this are of Crowborough getting the naive Mary to take him to the servants’ quarters so he can find and get back his letters to Thomas and Thomas’s visit as a footman to Crowborough’s room. The latter is the first place in the whole hour all formality is dropped and we get two human
beings confronting one anther for real.

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Plain talking, natural gestures (Crowborough)

I don’t believe it was the two males’ ideas to kiss so lovingly, but at any rare they do it so touchingly and yet we know how no humane feeling lies beneath it (so a contrast to the Bates/Anna scene in the attic which just precedes it — see first two stills) and again light, words, gestures and it’s the real climax of all the scenes in the part — and it undermines all the fatuity about how the show supports the order in front of us.

Fellowes also confirmed for me that Miss Obrien is really meant to be the person who had no belief in this system and hates it. He does not like her for this at all, and thinks it condemns her. But we may think differently even if we don’t
like her personally. He described Maggie Smith as a kind of crow in this part: also exposing the humbug but from her self-interested perspective. He kept pointing out how often she is in black with black hats.

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Fellowes saw in this hat an allusion to a hawk

He personally finds Elizabeth McGovern very pretty as an older woman and remarked on this as they watched the last bedroom scene.

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While she is often in black (they are all supposed partly in mourning), not always, and I could see he liked her as a simulacrum of an older wife he could quite imagine himslf “having” …

Ellen

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It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. — Last sentence of 1935 and Dickens’s ATOTC

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Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton in the closing moments of the 1935 MGM A Tale of Two Cities

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Random Harvest — like Lost Horizon the film may be “read” as anti-war

Dear friends and readers,

When I was 12 or 13 my screen idol was Ronald Colman. I remember my love for him best in A Tale of Two Cities and Talk of the Town, which in the way Million Dollar Movie (Channel 9, local NYC metromedia station) operated in the 1950s I saw every night for 5 nights and all day Saturday and Sunday each time they were scheduled. At the time I used to tell anyone who would listen (not many, probably just my father) that were I to tell any of the girls in school my heart-throb was Ronald Colman, they’d stare and ask me, who’s he? Girls my age then loved Frankie Avalon, Frankie Valli (The Four Seasons). Looking back I guess I never told anyone lest I appall anyone.

Not that Colman was not — as well as self-contained, strongly ethical, seeking personal fulfillment, sad, wistful, noble, deeply disillusioned, looking away ironically, quizzically, averted eyes — beautiful in the 1920s in the way of matinee idols. This may still be seen in the 1935 film when he talks with Lucie in the garden in a scene which in the novel may correspond to Dickens’s idealization of his relationship with Ellen Ternan (for whom he had brutally ejected his wife just as he was writing A Tale of Two Cities):

SydneywithLucieinGardenblog

Around that time I managed to watch the 1937 Prisoner of Zenda and just loved Colman’s gay and bitter ironies and thought him so alluring as a swashbuckler against Barrymore, Jr (I’ve not forgotten their thrilling sword fight down a turning stairway over a cliff uttering with many a bon mot at one another);; I saw a much mangled censured version of Lost Horizon which I also read (Hilton’s novel), and then decades (when I was in my later 50s) later replaced some years ago in my memory by reading buying a re-digitalized, newly restored (to an original version not seen in the theaters) DVD (complete with commentary and features) at the same time as I added to my repertoire Random Harvest (1942 MGM, also based on a Hilton novel); his very last performance of Othello in a 1948 Universal adaption of Othello, as actor and character, A Double Life. There is a worth while analysis of Random Harvest in Brian McFarland’s Novel into Film:

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and of Under Two Flags (with Claudette Colbert and which I’ve never seen) by Victoria Szabo (“Love on the Algerian Sands: Reviving Cigarette”) in Women at the Movies, Adapting Classic Women’s Fiction to Film, ed. Barbara Tepa Lupack:

ColmanColbertblog
Adapted from Ouida’s (Louise de la Ramee) novel

I’ve even managed a totally silent DVD of the 1925 Romola where Colman played a tenderly brother-type (not in the novel) to the heroine.

The trouble is I know these few films do not begin to cover those Colman acted in. While it’s true he sued Samuel Goldwyn for insinuating he was a depressive alcoholic and was neither (at all), I’ve learned that the suit helped his career. He was being given shallow silly parts, cliched roles, and he was quickly scooped up by MGM and Fox and went on to do some of his best work in the later 1930s. The books to read and peruse are the somewhat hagiographic R. Dixon Smith, RC: Gentleman of the Cinema, and the encyclopedic Ronald Colman: A Bio-bibliography by Sam Frank.

Still, after watching the 1935 A Tale of Two Cities, and liking it better each time (though it is anti- the French revolution) I put this still from the film on the wall. It is Colman as Carton standing outside the Darnay home looking in (a sort of Stella Dallas):

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I’ve now bought myself a re-digitalized 1938 Paramount The Light that Failed (Colman as Rupert Kipling’s failed painter) and await the DVD from Amazon eagerly).

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with Ida Lupino, a dual Snake Pit

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

I watched the 1935 MGM ATOTC as well as the 1958 Rank ATOTC — with Dirk Bogarde as Sydney Carton and the 1989 mini-series ATOTC, with James Wilbry as Carton, scripted by Arthur Hopcroft (who scripted the 1988 BBC Bleak House) because with a few people on Inimitable-Boz, I’d been reading & discussing Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities

I had last read it in my senior year in high school so that’s 41 years ago, and yet as I read parts I remembered them. This time I’m finding it a seriously flawed book. Again and again there are long astonishingly insightful and indeed prophetic passages on endless unjust imprisonment; state-fomented paranoia; torture and humiliation of people then murdered by the state, and then psychotic madness of people do tortured (Dr Manette’s fits); an understandable crazed need for revenge after a life of ravaging injustice (the knit, knit, knit chapter) — but then these are not rooted in any sound analysis of the history of the era, or human nature as it is, but instead we get a melodramatic story. We see a man try to change his identity because he rightly cannot bear the one imposed on him (Darnay), but we are given no reason for, no understanding of Carton’s depression, alcoholism, despair. He is a character without a past, no context. How did Carton end up Striver’s jackal. We are not told.

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We see this abysmally poor man’s child run over and grief jeered at — no wonder Gaspard seeks to murder the killer-blight on his life and all those around him.

But then a history of the time would emphasize these new principles and from what I’ve read of Carlyle he certainly does. Carlyle’s French Revolution (a possible source) is very hard reading — at least I find it opaque. The style is madness.

The question would be, how does a novelist dramatize these ideas? what plot-situation or dramatic scenes can convey them? Hugo resorts to outright chapters of idea- and history. I like these very much and think he carries it off splendidly, but now English translations of his Les Miserables actually put these in the back of the book, as if they were appendices and it’s hard to figure out where they came. One forgets they are there so forgets to read them.

Dickens’s story tends to criminalize the people making the revolution – as they are the perpetrators of the false trials of Darnay. They are presented as crazed and only a couple of anecdotes and stories produced to justify why they are seething with fear and rage. Darnay is Carton’s double and he figures a modern alienation: he does not want the identity imposed on him; he attempts in good faith to build a new life, but finds he cannot escape the past, his roots, his property even, and those around him will not let him escape what his uncle did before him.

As to the films: I watched the 1935 ATOTC twice and the 1958 ATOTC with Dirk Bogarde in the leading role, it shone. The 1958 film is a close imitation of the 1935, step-by-step influenced, but the changes were often deviations into something less believable and fudged (meaning the politics of the film). Especially the characters of Sydney Carton and Miss Manette. 1958: Dirk Bogarde was directed to play the part of an alcoholic who has given up on life without quite saying why; the typology really feel into a ne’er-do-well Skimpole (from Bleak House). Since I’ve seen Bogarde playing greatly (Night Porter, The Servant) I know he was directed into this. Elizabeth Allen believed in her role in 1935 and had an intense sort of femaleness; poor Dorothy Tutin (1958) was embarrassing as Lucie Manette; she didn’t believe the character for a moment and was told to make her voice high.

Colman really played the part of a depressed man, disillusioned by all he’s seen. gayly, poignantly ironic — he was typed this way in other films (Lost Horizon) and as I wrote at one point in his career sued the studio for insinuating this was his real character in life and broke his contract (he had some courage and integrity). The actors in 1935 were closer to Dickens’s world and were better at the grotesques, especially I admit Edna May Oliver and the woman enacting Madame Defarge as well as Basil Rathbone as her evil nemesis who destroyed her family.

From the totally wild self-abjecton and tender chapter of Sydney declaring his love, a chapter undermining masculinity, i 1935 they carried it off, especially since in the 1935 movie it was followed up by slight montages and vignettes suggesting in fact their relationship deepened and was part of their mutual lives for a few years to come. The dialogue reappears even in 1989. Hopcraft just didn’t drop it.

Not that there were no moments in 1958: Leo McKern was the lawyer attacking Darnay, and Donald Pleasance a young Barsad, the spy. Both films are hurt by the excess of sentiment and filming at studio lots. The 1958 could have been more political; it was eschewed, but the individual portraits hit home: the 1958 Mr Manette put me in mind of the prisoners now starving to death in Gitmo, there for more than 11 years, many innocent of any crime but being in Pakistan and poor and known to be leftist in sympathy during the time the bribing scheme was on. The prisons too — they brought to mind our own huge prison industry and people put away in solitary confinement for years and years.

1989: Although the film with James Wilby as Carton and Serena Gordon as Lucie was probably more effective for a modern audience, it was inferior to the 1935. Again it hinges on Carton: John Wilby actually played it as something like a gothic wanderer: he was filmed as a Byronic type. Unlike both Colman and Bogarde, the alcoholism was marginalized.

wilbyasOutsiderblog
Wilby plays the role as the outsider, the man who does not belong, a man apart, alone

The real problem with this character seems to be is he’s absolutely socially unacceptable to a wide audience and only the 1935 group had the nerve and only Colman the ability to play it.

It’s as if with each new version the film-makers departed more from the first try by getting rid of every good touch in the ’35 movie: one of my favorites is when (1935 movie) the people are jeering at Colman and others in the cart, and laughing at him especially, the actor says, “don’t laugh, and some words about the nature of the person or what’s happening there the man doesn’t understand.” Coming from Barsad that’s one of the finest moments in all 3 films.

Hopcraft was the writer and he wrote the 1988 Bleak House and that was excellent yet here he falls into the trap of having the actors do these fake semi-Frenchified voices and behaving in this stilted manner to indicate their Frenchness. It reminds me of the way Arab people are often represented on TV, as “different.” (A rare one not to do this was Prime Suspect). The harm to the movie was incessant. Hopcraft had moderned Esther Summerson by giving her some real characteristics of anger and resentment, and also pro-activity; nothing like that here, though unlike either previous Lucie at the film’s end Serena Gordon seems to realize she has done Carton in and at least looks some regret and memory of him.

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This is actually the last close-up shot of the 1989 film: Lucie in the carriage

I expect the movie-producers were afraid of offending as this is a book that’s well known. I feel the book itself got in the way. OTOH, no more of this stigmatizing of the “mob” as in 1935 and 1958, more incidents were invented to make us understand the rage and fear of the people in charge of the terror, not a lot but something.

The 1958 and 1989 film were afraid of imitating the 1935 and this too got in the way. Bogarde did have a consistent fulfilling final moment: in accordance with his character, he is not eager to go, rather passively letting things happen than (as with Colman) reaching out (to the seamstress).

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Bogarde as an apprehensive Carton

In 1989 we don’t see Wilby mount the scaffold, and the film ends with the carriage trundling away and the over-voice is the Christian “I am the Resurrection and the Light.” While that’s in the novel, it’s not the ending, and to put it last is to make Christian what is a part suicide scene: Carton seeking oblivion, peace, not redemption.

No one is redeemed in Dickens’s novel; it’s deeply pessimistic and as Colman mounts the scaffold (see the still prefacing this blog) we know the reason we do not hear catcalls is Miss Pross has murdered Madame Defarge. Jerry Cruncher, like Dickens’s Flintwich, beats his wife mercilessly, is the Resurrectionist of the book and bleakly parodies all the deaths. He conducts parody of the corpses of the ancien regime, and the corpses of the reign of (more intense because more crowded) few years to come. What is it Jay Gatsby says to Nick Carraway at the close of The Great Gatsby? “Tell me, old sport — what are we going to do with all these corpses on our hands?”

The ancien regime mutilated them. Jerry digs them up and sells them. Resurrectionist — a dark parody of I am the resurrection and the life, no? The US throws them out to sea.

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I know I’ve not written much since May 2nd (Disability Studies). I’ve been both busy and have lacked the heart to write much since My busyness has included finishing two powerful long novels by Trollope (He Knew He Was Right and The Way We Live Now read alternatively) and then carrying on reading three more remarkable novels by Anthony Trollope, the last very long (Framley Parsonage, The American Senator, Phineas Redux). I’m doing some fascinating reading about the use of maps, about the presentation of the city through plot-designs and action which emerge from how space is mapped in these books and hope to write about this soon.

I return to Colman to say to equate him with the “old-fashioned silver-screen gentleman” is to underestimate him. He had gone to a boarding school and started a good education, but was forced to leave school at 16 when his father died suddenly; while working at an office job, he turned to dramatics as an amateur by the time he was 22. For 18th century lovers, he is said to have been able to trace his family tree directly back to George Colman. He fought in World War One, a Ypres, and was very badly wounded. He limped all his life afterward and part of his acting was to disguise this.

LostHorizonblog
As the reporter waiting for his plan in Lost Horizon (this too is on one of my workroom walls)

Ellen

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margaret-thatcherblog
Listen and watch Tony Harrison’s filmed poem, V

‘My father still reads the dictionary every day./He says your life depends on your power to master words.’ — Arthur Scargill,
Sunday Times, 10 January 1982

V stands for Victory, Victim, Versus

Dear friends and readers,

She was a blight on us all — but unfortunately only an extreme version of the kind of people ruling most countries today. Like Reagan, she had a facility for saying something that seemed true, but was specious, that would be quoted and people would say “yes,” not realizing what she was endorsing was the worst and most rotten aspects of our experiences of life.

An important article by Andrew O’Hagan (“Maggie,” New York Review of Books, 60:9 [May 2013]:18-20). What O’Hagan does is show continually how in specific individual human terms Margaret Thatcher’s acts either destroyed some specific person’s hope, daily useful activity, job, opportunity or were responsible for killing literal people, destroying the houses or communities they lived in, e.g., the night she had the Belgrano sunk — outside the acknowledged waters of war (then there were limits to war’s purview) — 323 people died.

Maggie

It appears to be open to all, non-subscribers as well as paper and on-line subscribers, but lest you cannot reach it or do not feel inclined to click, some key paragraphs:

It was an impressive work of social engineering but ultimately a dreadful one. She created a population that is more dependent and less productive. She made us more individual but less cooperative. It must have looked heroic on paper or in the essays of Milton Friedman. But what she did was incredibly coarse in practice: she ground the unions down but left workers with no alternative form of self-esteem or protection, and the result, today, is a workforce of the alienated. She boasted of setting people free but British working people have never been more enslaved to the whims of fashion, corporate greed, and agism than they are now. A young person from a former mining community where there might have been classes in the evenings and a sense of propriety, decency, modesty, and community can now only hope for a place in “the zone”—the world of the “haves”—by winning a celebrity contest or by thriving on the black market …

All the kids in my class were given a small bottle of milk every day at mid-morning. It was nice to drink the milk, but nicer, in some larger way, to learn that you lived in a country where the government your parents paid their taxes to cared about you that minutely. Thatcher stopped the milk. It seemed new, the thought—promulgated by Keith Joseph, Norman Tebbit, and, chiefly, Margaret Thatcher—that people who didn’t want to strive and become better than their neighbors were totally lacking in spirit.

At first it seemed like a small philosophical problem: older people, hard-working people, contented people, sick people would argue that they didn’t have to be winners. They didn’t want to do better: they were quite happy to do fine. They liked being like other people. It squared with their sense of belonging and with their idea of what made British life stable. My mother worked in a youth club and Thatcher closed it down …

The summer before going to university I got a job with the Manpower Services Commission, at the Job Centre, working the front-line desk with the unemployed. It was 1986 and I’ll never forget those lines of men coming up to the desk to inquire about their suitability for work. There were no jobs. They could try for something in a bar or a hairdresser’s, but fifty-year-old men weren’t going to get those jobs and I was instructed not to send them for interviews. Norman Tebbit, one of Mrs. Thatcher’s proudest and crudest lieutenants, told them to “get on your bike and get a job.” And here they were, skilled tradesmen with thirty-five years’ experience, asking if I could put them forward for a job they weren’t going to get collecting glasses in a bar. Mrs. Thatcher came up with various schemes, such as Restart, where the unemployed would be called in and interrogated about what they were “actively” doing to seek work. And I was told to talk to each of the men about the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, by which the government would give them a grant to start up their own business. The notion that some people are simply not entrepreneurial was lost …

Most important for US readers:

She couldn’t hold the nation together, indeed she drove it apart, and that is because she didn’t really believe in the nation except as a sentimental or martial entity. That’s the strangest legacy of all about Maggie: if you listen to those who loved her and thought she was manifestly right, you find, after a while, that you are with people who don’t know their own country and don’t like it either. They think they like it because they don’t like Europe, but in fact, they abjure both. They like their own lives, of course, and their own kind, but they imagine the rest of Britain is mainly an unspeakable place of aliens and scroungers

When Romney and his ilk talk of the 47% they are saying that to them most of the US are scrounges and aliends. When the Republicans and their allies try to limit the vote, they are acting out of the conviction only a tiny percentage of people who live in the US are of their kind (well-to-do, white) and all the rest not quite human. Obama is an illegitimate president because his skin color is wrong.

Ellen

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Adam and Beth go looking for racoons
Adam (Hugh Dancy in key role): a movie about an autistic young man

Dear friends and readers,

There’s a major area completely undiscovered – as it were — in Victorian literature. A way of making genuinely humane sense out of all sorts of works. We need to stop (first of all, a minimum first) stop using terms like “cripples” or “monstrous” as these feed into misunderstanding of what the experience of disability is to the person and those immediately around him or her, who live with and next to them.

To answer a request to cite a few such characters and comment on Victorian characters already cited:

MadameNeroniblog
The first shot of la Signora Neroni (Susan Hampshire): Mrs Proudie asks, “what’s so special about this lady beyond her preposterous name?” Rickman as Slope replies: “She can’t walk.”

Madame Neroni in Trollope’s Barchester Towers is not a monstrous figure, but her crippled state is described as grotesque. She refuses to try to walk is to do that would expose this aspect of her body. If we move away from the word “cripples” and an insistence on physical disability as the key to disability, Elizabeth Gaskell has quite a number of disabled characters across her oeuvre, especially the short stories (a number of which are gothic in feel). It’s mostly mental disability and she shows real empathy for the disabled character and her or his caretaker, mostly women. By contrast, there’s Eliot’s really cruel Lifted Veil where a “mentally retarded” young man (whom today would be labelled low-functioning autistic) is treated with horror, as an unendurable mischievously savage burden. I would count Tarchetti’s Fosca as an Italian Victorian gothic novella — in the modern translation by Lawrence Venuti it’s retitled Passion, the influence of Sondheim’s musical-opera.

It doesn’t take much to see many of the characters in gothic mysteries and crime stories as disabled people stigmatized as “other.” A reading of recent disability studies might open up a whole new area of humane investigation from this point of view, and this has been already begun. An issue of Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies — 6.2 (2012) — is dedicated to disability studies. The central point is made that disability is partly in the eye of the society who defines a series of traits as disability and then sees the person with these as “others”; then the purpose of the issue is to explore how disability is presented in literature. There are essays on “Late Victorian Gothic,” disability in romance, disability in crime and mystery novels.

The claim is persuasively made that crime and mystery novels have often centered on disabled people seen as villains, freaks, or the detective him or herself (mentally different you see). This kind of insight is fueling the new British Sherlock, arguably both Martin Freeman and Bernard Cumberbatch play high-functioning autistic or Aspergers characters who find deep friendship and a metier in helping other outside the cultural norm.

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First shot of Dr Watson (Martin Freeman) home from war

Moving slightly away from Victorian texts, it’s argued in these essays that there are far more openly disabled characters in popular fiction than ever before, but the question is whether there has been really a development of understanding or empathy or it’s a reinforcing voyeurism in the service of enforcing normalcy. I know everyone is tired of hearing of Downton Abbey, but the presence of a character like Mr Bates is part of this new openness. What’s remarkable about Gaskell for example is by the end of her presentation the central characters have not been re-coopted into conventional patterns; they are not made “all well.”And to give Fellowes his due for once, Mr Bates is not co-opted back into “all well.” He remains outside the “norm” with his menacing dignity. The actor, Brendan Coyle, was given a central role in the film adaptation of Gaskell’s Cranford Chronicles.

I suggest a study of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights from the point of disability studies (her verse too) might open whole new points of view on Heathcliff and Emily Bronte herself, the occasional half-hysterical violence of that book, the apartness of her poetry and various stories about Emily herself. Isabella Linton Heathcliff may well be a portrait of a woman unable to cope with social demands, and reacting grotesquely.

There’s also Fictions of Affliction by Martha Stoddard Holmes: her figures in include Madame Neroni, Dickens’s Jenny Wren (Our Mutual Friend), Tiny Tim, Wilkie Collins’s Lucy Finch she also studies Henry Mayhew’s interviews with disabled street vendors; autobiographical writings of Harriet Martineau and John Kitto, both deaf; and biographies of two public figures who were blind, the postmaster general Henry Fawcett and the disabled-rights activist Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Contemporary illustration of Dickens’s character by Marcus Stone

Holmes is said to be interested in the melodramatic way most of these figures are presented; it’s an emotional and moral, not a medical and social struggle. Thinking about this, for Madame Neroni I would say it is a social struggle. For example, her decision not to be seen walking, the way she re-interprets what happened during her marriage. She’s not presented melodamatically either. Not that I am arguing Trollope’s portrait is of a 20th or 21st century enlightened sort, but he does bring in that she was physically abused by her husband.

Though not on Victorian literature, the insights in Rosemarie Garland Thomson: Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring disability in American literature may be used for Victorian literature.

Deafness is also often brought up as a central “type” of disability — partly because of the strong self-advocacy by the deaf, & I suggest Leonard Davis’s Enforcing Normalcy ought to inform any work done in this area; its subtitle Disability, Deafness, and the Body brings out its central focus on deafness. One of the chapters is on the first recording and understanding of deafness as a disability (not a monstrous irreversible condition) in the 18th century; this revolutionary change began in our enlightenment and its work has never been wholly undone. Another chapter makes Quasimodo a central figure.

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From Charles Laughton’s brilliant performance in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Going back in time a century, Oliver Sacks’s Seeing Voices also has a long eye-opening chapter on individual courageous and insightful 18th century philosophes who developed and taught sign language to deaf people, miraculously it was thought at first, turning them from imbeciles into functioning members of society — by those who would let them function. Sacks goes into the first schools for the dear, unfortunately all too quickly in the early 19th century an attempt was made to enforce talking on the deaf in such schools, to take away from them their sign language, to beat them into submission even. One of the most moving accounts of seeing the change in deaf people once they are treated as human beings like ourselves with another way of communicating is found at the close of Samuel Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands writes: if he that speaks looks towards them, and modifies his organs by distinct and full utterance, they know so well what is spoken, that it is an expression scarcely figurative to say, they hear with the eye … It was pleasing to see one of the most [hitherto] desperate of human calamaties capable of so much help.

I’ve not published any conventional articles on this for Victorian studies. It would take such work for me — partly because I’d have to really dig into Gaskell. She seems to me a rare spirit in the Victorian period to show sympathy, but to be accurate, her empathy is with the care-taking women. One limitation of her gothic stories is she tends to show sympathy simply for the care-taker and we see the disabled person as violent or sullen from afar; a rare instance of one of her attempts at a disabled perspecive is Lady Ludlow’s Story where the story is told by Margaret Dawson; however, soon after the narrative begins and not until we get near to the end are we reminded our narrator is a crippled girl on a couch.

I also dream of writing a study of the Poldark novels and Daphne DuMaurier’s King’s General. Placed in the 17th century civil war, the latter’s about a heroine crippled from a fall from a horse: DuMaurier said she began it when she saw near Menabillies (her great house) a home-made wooden wheel chair from the later 17th century in a barn.

antiquewoodenwheelchair

This would take me back to the eighteenth century.

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FridaKahloSelfPortraitblog
Frida Kahlo, self-portrait with doctor

Thinking about Gaskell’s approach, disabilities affect women centrally as care-takers and as disabled. I’ve now gotten myself 3 books on disability studies in the humanities, two wholly devoted to how disabilities affect women, one of which I’ve begun: Michelle Fine and Adrienne Asche’s collection: Women with Disabilities. See Fine’s Disruptive Voices: Fine is the only person I’ve read to do justice to the class bias that ostracizes women who are raped when they come into clinics for help.A little from the introduction.

Because of the way society is structured, women experience disabilities much worse than men, and are much more ignored — the two go together, experienced much more excruciatingly in the area of sexual experience, so crucial to women’s lives. . I now have statistics and essays arguing what I’ve long felt to be so: the only reason it’s said more men are autistic is people care so much more about men not getting jobs or “doing well” socially; women need only be married off and have babies; plus people are more ashamed of reading women than reading men. A reading man might become a scientist, a professor, a lawyer, what is the use of a reading woman?

Why has there been little work done among feminists for women with disabilities? shamelessly, one female academic said: such studies would “reinforce traditional stereotypes of women in need, dependent, perhaps passive.” (Can’t have that.) I’ve just begun the essay in the volume on friendship between women one of whom has disabilities and the other not.

How few the conversations with people about disabilities and how even then when confronted with an individual there’s a turning away and intense discomfort, a desire not to have the burden, fear of contagion: you’ll catch it, you too will be ostracized. Disabled characters, open and disguised, are found among classic children’s books, more often than you might suppose.

thetrumpetoftheswanblog
One of Yvette’s favorite books: E. B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan: a mute swan carries a trumpet and writing slate

Two further well-known texts include Elizabeth Spencer’s Light in the Piazza (made into a musical): the daughter is autistic. Lucy Greary’s Autobiography of a Face.

I’ve only begun Women with Disabilities but already the texts bring home to me aspects of a set of texts I’ve been studying for over two years now: Austen’s letters and the experience of discussing these with other people. Again and again I have to watch people continue to misread the emphases in these letters and ignore say Jane’s relationship with Martha Lloyd. Insist that she didn’t marry was a default option not a preference. Ignore the very real peculiarities in her character.

Recently I’ve added and compared Frances Burney D’Arblay’s life-writing and found some aspects of her compulsion to write come out of her disabilities as a child. But her life-writing is not as useful as Austen’s — she hides her disabilities since much is self-praising fictionalizing: she makes herself the central heroine of romances, the adulated, the envied, from George III’s madness to Hastings’ trial. It’s rather in her third novel, Camilla, where one of her two heroines, Eugenia, is lamed and her face disfigured early in the novel that we get an early rare example of empathy for a disabled woman in early literature: what happens to her: Eugenia ends up married to an abusive man.

For studying disability as such (not in literature) I’d much prefer to write about life-writings than novels

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How did I come to write the above? whom am I speaking to?

On the large academic literary listserv, Victoria, there had appeared a query where for a second time someone requested examples of “cripples” in a disquieting way. The person requested “gothic images of cripples” and used the word “monstrous” of such a character without any sense that she (or he) was treating a whole class of people as obvious freaks, taking aboard as it were what one would have hoped in such a place would be an outdated attitude.

I waited a while and when no response beyond that of listing such supposed characters emerged, which then morphed into citing “deaf” characters, I sent a posting which was at first rejected or over-looked as insufficiently Victorian. A little rewriting enabled it to go through the next day and then off-list I got a number of thank yous, remarks about how slow or small has been the progress of understanding of people with disabilities,and descriptions of experiences, that I decided to put the above posting on line to reach more people in the form of a continuation of a blog I wrote about a debate in articles in a humanities journal which covers popular literature as well as disabilities: is the increase in depiction of characters with disabilities creating real understanding or effective help for real people with disabilities? I asked how far fandoms prevent such growth in sympathy and how far authors and film-makers found themselves pressured into creating alienating depictions or enforcing normalcy.

And I discussed the dramatization of the experiences of characters with disabilities in the last 5 of the Poldark novels and Downton Abbey.

MrBatesblog
The third shot of Mr Bates (Brendan Coyle, the first two show his face in the window of a train arriving at Downton, !:1)

The first time a startlingly prejudiced posting was put on Victoria I answered it too excitedly, but if I could find that posting, I’d put here on this blog now too.

Ellen

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