Posts Tagged ‘rape’

Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser (Caitronia Balfe) singing & dancing gaily and wryly

Murtagh Fraser (Duncan LaCroix) dancing stiffly and awkwardly (from Episode 14, “The Search”)

Claire: May I make a suggestion? Perhaps you could sing a song to jazz up the dance a bit.
Murtagh: Jazz?
Claire: To spice up, enliven. A song?
Murtagh: Yes.
Claire: Something toe-tapping, like

He was a famous trumpet man From out Chicago way He had a boogie style that no one else could play He was the top man at his craft But then his number came up And he was gone with the draft He’s in the army now A-blowing reveille. He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B

Murtagh: What?
Claire: It’s a bonnie tune.
Murtagh: But you need a Scottish song …
Claire (sometime later):

Here’s to all you lads and lasses That go out this way Be sure to tip her coggie When you take her out to play Lads and lasses toy a kiss The lads never think what they do is amiss Because there’s Kent and Keen and there’s Aberdeen And there’s none as muckle as the strathabogie wogie For every lad?! wander just to have his lass And when they see her pintle rise They’ll raise a glass And rowe about their wanton een They’ll dance the reels as the troopers go over the lea Because there’s Kent and Keen and there’s Aberdeen And there’s none as muckle as the strathabogie wogie He giggled, google me He was a banger He sought the prize between my thighs Became a hanger And there’s Kent and Keen and there’s Aberdeen But there’s none as muckle as the strathabogie wogie If you see a strapping redheaded fellow, let me know. There’s a big redheaded lad come through these parts. But there’s none as muckle as the strathabogie wogie And no there’s none as muckle as the wanton tune of strathabogie

Dear friends and readers,

In these last three episodes the first season concluded with moving from transitioning to a downright reversal of gender roles. This is taken to a level meant to astonish viewers: where else is a man broken in spirit and raped? The rescuers are all women or women-led. First, the two heroines (Jenny, his sister, Laura Donnelly, one, her breasts filled with milk), and then one, his wife, Claire, alone with her subaltern hero’s brother-mate, now discovered to be rather a replacement father, Murtagh, go on quest for said hero, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). They find him having escaped hanging, thrown into chains in a dungeon, having been humiliated to the point of robbing him of all pride, tortured (his right hand smashed with a hammer), raped, brought to want suicide by one half of the series doppelganger hero-villain, Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies).

He is rescued by the concerted repeated courageous efforts of said wife-heroine, and a band of his mates; then he is nursed, his hand re-structured by her (now we move back to usual gender roles), taken loving care of by all, including brothers, in a monastery. Finally, coaxed out of intense self-hatred, depression, nightmares, but not just recalled rather driven back to life by Claire (again he is the one worked upon) and simply taken into flight across the waters. The three episodes form a kind of climax and denouement trilogy to all that has gone before. Taken to another level.

What many viewers might not know or not realize (or forget) is, like the 12th and 13th episodes (“Lallybroch” and “The Watch”), these three seem to follow the outline of the book’s ending, but in fact depart radically.

In the book the quest, which takes all of Episode 14 (as “The Search”) and then some of 15 (Wentworth Prison), takes 5 paragraphs out of the first of a closing series of long chapters (Part Six, 8 to be precise). While the capture, beating, breaking of spirit and body and rape of Jamie, is there in the book, it takes only about 2/3s of one chapter (35, “Wentworth Prison”) and is not placed as climax. In the mini-series, the actual core scenes of Black Jack and Jamie where Jamie allows Black Jack to make love to him and responds are held off as a flashback (reminding me of Richardson’s Clarissa) until near the end of 16, the last episode (“To Ransom A Man’s Soul”) so they become the climax.

Murtagh, Father Anselm (Ian Hanmore) and Claire discussing what seems the hopelessness of bringing Jamie out of his intense grief and loss

Jamie responding, remembering, dreaming moving to the flashback (which I will not put stills from on my blog lest I attract the wrong kind of attention) (from Episode 16, “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”)

As in the book’s versions of Episodes 12 & 13 a lingering depiction of a story about a tense return home ending unexpected disaster from treachery, so that the theme is rooted in characterization and as much about what is meant by home, and men’s relationships to women there, in the book’s versions of 14-16 we are given a luxuriating in woman’s romance:

a full emphasis on Claire’s attempts to save Jamie by negotiation, entering two different Scottish households, one the armed castle type run by Sir Fletcher, and the other, another old-fashioned country house farmstead of the McRannochs, where Claire meets the wife as well as husband. In the book, as heroines have done before her, she is successful because she enlists the aid of the non-violent home-y private knowledge of the MacRannochs, including their cattle. The cattle is just about all that is kept in the mini-series: a way to barge into the prison and during the fracas and violence, sluice Jamie out. In the book Claire, Jamie and Murtagh flee to France — across the waters — immediately, and are taken into a French monastery, recalling to his mind the one he fled to (and told Claire of) after his first nearly mortal encounter with Black Jack, which inflicted on him his criminal status and permanently scarred back.

In the mini-series the monastery is in the highlands (and not safe, but hidden enough for a while) and,by contrast, the final scene is on the shore, a goodbye to Scotland for now, and the three principals sail away — rather like many a male-centered sea story.

Beyond intrigue, comedy and action-adventure, what survives from the book is the agon of Jamie and Claire forced apart by Black Jack on threat of destroying another part of Jamie’s body (Episode 15, “Wentworth Prison”)

In the book after Claire has performed her physical and psychological re-fashioning of Jamie, they find this French monastery unsafe. Reminding me uncannily of Sophie Lee’s Recess now, they flee into a cave where they stay, make intense love, and then crawl out through the earth to reach the sky and build another future than is in the cards for themselves and others.

But there another political level to this drama (as pointed out by Emily Nussbaum in the New Yorker last year): the torturing of Jamie mirrors our own politics. Gabaldon wrote Outlander in 1995 well before 9/11, before systematic torture was practiced by the Bush administration, allowing it to spread and become acceptable elsewhere. It’s important to emphasize this political source for what we see, not only as demonstrating even women’s historical romances are about history and politics (as certainly historical fiction is), but because a newly elected US president has condoned torture and people he’s appointed condon it too. I believe the scenes are made emphatic and developed intutively as timely: there are two between Black Jack and Jamie, in the first Jack smashes Jame’s hand because it seems Jamie will not bend, not yield, in the second the intensely painful submission scene. It should be remembered that no information is being extracted. There are too many studies for me to cite showing that torture is useless for extracting truthful information; perhaps Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain is most pertinent here: she argues not force itself alone but the fear and infliction on someone of bodily pain lies behind powerful state gov’t’s successes. Here the English.

The mini-series might be said to be a (long-distance) descendant of Walter Scott, historical fiction, with a heap of fashionable post-colonialism; the book is a similar descendant of Ann Radcliffe (combining all three of her famous romances) by way of Daphne DuMaurier’s occasionally kinky eroticism, woman’s historical romance (often part fantasy).

Pace the book about these forms I’m reading just now, Bowden’s Descendants of Waverley, the differences between these two genres is considerable. I’ve now gotten myself the British DVD set of the new 2016 Poldarks and the fat books of Complete Scripts, Series 2 by Deborah Horsfield, and will be leaving off writing about the Outlander mini-series for a while, but I’m also struck by how both mini-series (1970s and again now) albeit in very different ways, as they go on become more literally faithful to the books as well as actual 18th century history.

Surface mining in the new Poldark (seen by the second episode of the 1st season)

The opening scene at Inverness (1, “Sassenach”)

The World of Poldark by Emma Marriot, a companion volume to the 2016 TV series has many short essays on historical topics; The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett, a companion volume to this one on-going TV series has almost none: history is only brought up as a detail to explain this facet of a costume or prop or why a particular ritual or song took a certain hybrid form. Winston’s Graham’s original book about Poldark’s Cornwall had much about Cornwall itself (for real), his relationship to it, and his characters to history, actual photos of real places, all set-up as life-writing.

Cornish perpendicular gothic window, a photo from Graham’s edition of Poldark’s Cornwall

Gabaldon’s equivalent Outlandish Companion has much about Scottish history seen through a prism of fantasy, romance, with astrological tables, ancient Scottish symbols, words, drawings of ruins, playful illustrations, all set-up as a kind of substitute (almost) for reading four of the Outlander books. I began these blogs on Outlander by way of having some comparative and intertextual context for the new Poldark.


Permutations of a bracelets from Outlandish Companion


None of this is to stay this Outlander mini-series is not a marvel of good writing (especially the over-voice linking much), interesting human sequences, studies of gender, some post-colonial history, strong structure, effective music and effective scenery (beautiful when wanted), the cinematography breath-taking, the close-ups deeply moving, but to recognize what has happened to it in an adaptation meant to engage male as as well as female viewers. So I’ll conclude with just two elements I was struck by in these last three.

Coming up to the monastery

The use of the past is not just a pretext. The unfamiliarity of the past is important as when Claire and Murtagh travel across northern Scotland to find Jamie in an era without maps, daily newspapers, telegraph, telephone, TV, internet, lots of published maps (no GPS, no cell-phone). We are comforted by their overcoming the lack of technology, and we delight in how eras can be brought together. So Claire entertains with jazzed up versions of Scottish songs, sounding like a radio program from the 1940s. She tells fortunes of women glad to hear their husbands will die young. She fights one imitator for (in effect) copyright — and he cheats and uses her materials. It’s fun to see Murtagh’s awkward dancing. The visualization and sounds of all this is in fact what the book cannot provide.

Claire snacking inbetween performances (14, “The Search”)

Love and friendship are matters of affinity, companionship and then physical love are compensatory and crowning expressions of a valuing of one another’s individual qualities, rather than an end in itself. Black Jack is perverse because he wants to devour and punish, inflict pain to feel his power. The good features of any personality are the most solitary ones, the indwelling mind which keeps to its own integrity. So at the end of both book and this first series, we have the deeply gratifying coming together of loving affection between parting men and wedded men and women.

Claire saying goodbye to Willie who has been the most loyal of all Jamie’s friends

Fair is the wind for France


I have not mentioned the music of this series thus far. Let me end on that which begins and haunts most episodes: the theme of the Craig Na Dun stones and women’s dance.

A header on one of the fan sites for this mini-series

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone …

The song is a re-working of a traditional Scots folk tune: The Skye-Boat Song, with words paraphrased from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “Sing me a song of a lady that is gone.” Brian McGreary who composed it describes himself as “a Jacobite fanatic,” he did his thesis on the Jacobites and the music of the era. He used a “live orchestra and live soloists … live bagpipes, the live fiddle, the bodhran, which is the drum that can change pitch, [which we hear] predominantly in the main title … ” It was an attempt to be authentic Scots, using one of the great Scottish writers. It’s sung by Raya Yarborough and is part of the paratext opening for each episode.

There is a music or a theme associated with Frank, Claire’s tenderly loving husband from the 1940s and it’s classical, 20th century, what we associate with Vaughn Williams, English composers drawing on English folk song. There is a theme for Frank and Claire together, and there is a theme for Claire and Jamie together, heard in different permutations, bodhran, Scottish percussion, small string ensemble, a deeper more baritone setting with low strings or a viola da gamba when the focus is on Jamie (from The Making of Outlander, pp 22-27). But no theme for Claire. Ah well. She gets to do the over-voice, the perspective …

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Mull was astern, Rum on the port,
Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
Where is that glory now?

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Give me again all that was there,
Give me the sun that shone!
Give me the eyes, give me the soul,
Give me the lad that’s gone!

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.
— Robert Louis Stevenson


People disappear all the time. Young girls run away from home. Children stray from their parents and are never seen again. Housewives take the grocery money, and a taxi to the train station. Most are found eventually. Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually. Strange, the things you remember. Single images and feelings that stay with you down through the years (the epigraph to Outlander, the first words heard in the series, spoken by Balfe).


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Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza (the first season)

Aidan Turner as Ross

[PLEASE NOTE: This news turned out to be false. None of these crucial alterations were done. I’ve kept the blog to show how one should not believe what gossip says is coming in a mini-series; for the argument of what are crucial chanages; and most of all for all the comments readers of the blog, lovers of the book and mini-series wrote. These are very interesting.]

As all those who have been waiting for the second season of Poldark to air know, there has been an unexpected delay in the airing of the second season of Poldark. Usually when a series is a real hit, the producers, channel, film-maker strike while the iron is still hot. The second season of Outlander came before the end of another year, and a third and possibly fourth season have already been announced.

I am among those eager to see the new second season. So late last spring I noticed a column by Debbie Horsfield containing a carefully worded statement (around the time a second season might have ended) that they had decided to present the sexual events of the coming season discreetly. They were going to be suggestive, not graphic. All who have read the books knew a rape was coming and I took this to mean that as in the 1975 Poldark, we would only see the prologue to rape, and then the screen would go dark. She was saying that modern film-making customs would not be followed, and explicit sex scenes would not be developed.

Not that Ross’s rape of Elizabeth would be obliterated altogether.

Robin Ellis as Ross in the scenes prologue to the rape

Jill Townsend as Elizabeth in the same scenes (1975-76 Poldark)

That is what has been done. A suddenly timid BBC has perhaps pressured the film-makers of the new Poldark series to destroy a central event that makes for a meaningful plot design with a first climax at the end of the 7th book (The Angry Tide) and the final denouement of the whole cycle, at the close of the 12th book (Bella):

The BBC and film-makers say they feel that the modern audience could not accept a rape from a hero. It’s too shocking, rape. Have they not been watching other TV series of late? read any recent contemporary novels?

I wonder how much or if they fought over this. Robin Ellis tells us that in Making Poldark the script-writers and director were in conflict with some of the actors over the way in the 1970s mini-series Ross’s marriage to Demelza was presented as a shot-gun wedding, the result of a pregnancy which she first tried to abort, none of which is in Graham’s books.

Anghared Rees as Demelza protesting the morning after sex, declaring she wants to leave

With Ellis as Ross, she struggles to free herself so as to go for her abortion (again 1975 Poldark, wholly invented and unlike the book)

In Graham’s books Ross rebels against hierarchy, rank, status norms to marry a servant in his house because he and she have started to go to bed together, and he feels he is destroying her future unless he stops this before she gets pregnant or marries her. He finds himself comfortable with her, does not want to give her up as a servant, companion, and bed-mate, and is deeply angry against the social order. So defies it. Was this an important change? thereafter the script-makers and director kept faithfully to the books until near the end of Warleggan (Episodoes 14 to 15 in the first season, 1975-76) when they again departed radically, causing problems for the second season two years later (1977-78).

How important is the rape? I’d argue it’s far more important than the initial precipitating cause for Ross and Demelza’s marriage, as nothing else hinged on it. Not so the rape. To put it abstractly, in what ways can a film adaptation depart from a novel in order to erase or betray it? well, it can expunge a crucial plot-event that gives rise to a succession of climactic and centrally thematic fraught consequences in this or later novels, in other words further crucial plot-events. A series of consequences that make for the very ending of novels that are turning points in the novel series. You might say, this would not be easy to do. If A (so we’ll call the final moment in a novel) is the result of B, C, D, and E, and they came as a direct result of F, and F is missing (the rape), what happens to B, C, D, and E? Especially if they are particularly moving and tragic and give the characters acting these events depth and intense interest?

True. events A, B, C, and D will not come until the 3rd season. The results of Ross’s rape of Elizabeth about 2/3s the way through Warleggan (Poldark Novel 4) do not emerge until the birth of Valentine, Ross and Elizabeth’s son in The Black Moon (Poldark Novel 5), i.e, Season 3. The intense jealousy of Warleggan, and his abuse of Elizabeth, and her misery and wretchedness begin only when Warleggan has reason to suspect Valentine is Ross’s much later in The Four Swans (Poldark Novel 6). Indeed the script writer, Debbie Horsfield will not have to trouble herself over the final tragedy in say Episode 8 or 10 since it is only at the close of The Angry Tide (Poldark Novel 7) that desperate to make Warleggan think her present pregnancy is by him and accept Valentine’s his, Elizabeth decides she will make Warleggan believe she tends to give birth early and goes to a doctor for a dangerous concoction of herbs to precipitate early parturition and her own death. Never can tell, there might not be a Season 3.

But if there is (and I hope there will be), how will all this be handled? In Graham’s books Elizabeth was left to deal with it on her own. In the older Poldark mini-series ditto.

Jill Townsend as Elizabeth, this time pregnant by Warleggan, ashamed as she visits a doctor

The unsympathetic suspicious doctor who supplies the needed abortifacient

If there is a third season, and say, we actually reach a last season, and the 12th and final book of the series, Bella, what will they do with the plangent meaningful tragic close (our hypothetical E)? What guilt could Ross have over how Valentine became twisted and isolated if he did not for all these books and all these years evade his responsibility, refuse to admit to anyone that the boy was his, he was the father who left the boy fatherless? The gut-wrenching nightmares, Valentine’s turn to a pet orangutan (don’t laugh, the last books do justice to characters with disability, and develop an animal rights point of view implicit in the early books), Valentine’s own choice of death or self-destruction?

A very young David Hemmings and Samantha Egg in the 1970 Walking Stick

Graham has been credited with being an instinctive feminist, and with presenting women in transgressive and iconoclastic roles. Not just in his historical novels, but also his spy thrillers and modern mysteries and a few remarkable novels centering on mental disorder and disability (i.e., Marni (1964, Hitchcock film), The Walking Stick, both of which were filmed, the second brilliantly). I knew much of this was erased in the new first season, including any undermining of male gender stereotypes, but the protest level of feminism had been at least embodied to some extent in Verity’s story as well as Demelza’s. The first season saw the character of Elizabeth, in the original books and series, an insecure and ambitious woman, who found more joy in motherhood than she did understanding or support in her husband Francis; who didn’t care for sex particularly, turned into a pious moral exemplar, whose every thought was to make her husband a good entrepreneur and imitator of his father, Charles and every waking act to nurture her baby.

Heida Reed as Elizabeth near tears because Francis is not coming up to masculine norms (2015 Poldark)

Kyle Soller as a moving Francis Poldark in considerable distress because he’s come down in the world as he can’t manage the work ethic (wholly unlike the aristocratic Francis of the books and 1970s series)

Henry James said what a character does is central to how we know a character’s psychology and ethical character. I am wondering now how they will change this character so that she falls into adultery with Ross? If they have an affair, that means sex with some frequency, no? If we are to see a succession of days and nights of sex between Ross and Elizabeth, what does that do to his character? his relationship with Demelza? In the original books and mini-series, the Scots Captain McNeill almost succeeds in seducing Demelza; she backs away at the last moment. Will she “have an affair in turn.” I hope not because she does have a real love romance in The Four Swans that is meaningful: as a young girl she never had a romantic courtship nor a man near her age, respect and courtesy and poetry she yearned for comes her way. No one is expecting Graham’s hero to be as believable as Tolstoy’s Pierre (from War and Peace) I suppose, but the books do contain a real man as protagonist, a complex enough character to interest us. Real men who are not utter villains rape women — this even happens the statistics tell us often. This is an issue that should not be swept under a rug.

In the first season Horsfield boasted that she was closer to the original books than the 1970s mini-series. She’s given that up — or was forced to. Could it be that the BBC read fan sites where people have argued fiercely that Ross could not have raped Elizabeth; or, that Elizabeth is to blame for the night of sex; or anything rather than Graham’s disquieting novel for mature adults. No longer do fans have nowhere to voice their displeasure. They were worried lest sticking to the original books mar their ratings. Recent film studies have shown that further seasons of a series will alter intentions and characters to please on-line fan groups or at least exert considerable pressure (Andrea Schmidt, “The Imaginative Power of Downton Abbey Fan Fiction” in Julie Taddeo and James Leggott’s collection, Upstairs and Downstairs: British Costume TV Drama: The Forsyte Saga to Downton Abbey). So perhaps the BBC was willing to mar their matter and pressured Horsfield to change her stance towards faithfulness. Whether the result will deprive the central heros and heroines of a complexly develping consistent personalities over a long series of books or (if it should come to pass) series of films remains to be seen.

I had been planning to write about the second season without referring to the 1970s mini-series. Now I will compare the two series with the books as I did last year (see my blog and an essay, Poldark Rebooted, 40 Years On). I may even teach the second trilogy of Graham’s books (The Black Moon, The Four Swans, and The Angry Tide, 1973-77) as last and two years ago I taught the first quartet (Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark, Warleggan, 1945-53)

From the cover illustration of the first paperback edition of Graham’s Black Moon


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Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond) and Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael): “I’m sure there’s a way forward … ”

Anna (Joanne Froggatt): ‘How was dinner?’
Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery): ‘Uphill … you don’t think I’m aloof …’
Anna: ‘Do you want me to answer truthfully or like a lady’s maid … [ — Anna thanks Lady Mary for intervening to keep Bates with her and Lady Mary tries to probe and Anna says she just can’t talk about it — ].
Mary: ‘If you described him and ought you to see Dr Clarkson just to make sure?’
Anna: ‘I’m glad there’s honesty between us again but I can’t talk about it’
Mary: ‘Even to me … because you’ve helped me God knows …in the past and now I want to help you.’
Anna: ‘I can’t talk about it, milady. not even to you … ‘

Dear friends and readers,

I call Part 7 of this fourth season strangely moving because it is. I know its weaknesses, the worst being the refusal to focus on Anna’s inner life, to show us what she has felt when she would no more go to bed with Bates than any other man. The intimate relationship between these two women is not dramatized before us. As in Part 5, it’s Bates’s inner life — seething — Mary probes for a moment:

BatesMary (1)

I’ve watched it 3 times now though, each time feeling the building tension slowly increase as the four more openly-felt stories are woven into the design of the tapestry. I like the sense of deeply felt relationships between the pairs of characters and they so move me because it’s what I’ve not got now and so yearn for. The Downton characters keep faith with one another and are kind to one another. This emotional attitude may be epitomized briefly and sharply by fleeting scenes of Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) and Molseley’s (Bernard Gallagher) growing sense of alliance and support; he notices Thomas’s (Rob James-Collier) trying to pump her and wants to know why, sits near her, acting as a short of shield.

BatesMary (2)

First of all the one we begin with, the story of the assault-rape of Anna (Joanne Froggatt) in this part needs to be told to now this person, and now to that, as the Bates’s lives have changed: they are unwilling to endure the relative lack of safety when their other is not nearby.


Bates: ‘I won’t go’
Anna Bates: ‘I see so you’ll leave his lordship in the lurch and probably lose your job and all this to help me. Go home and pack.’ [Still shows her cracking up alone in the hall; she is afraid to be alone, be without him now]

This story threads in and out, and although disturbing because it’s all about how the family first want Bates near to Anna to protect her from another assault (so as beyond Mr Green only Anna and Mrs Hughes know who did it); and then how those who know work to deflect Bates’s desire to murder the rapist: Mrs Hughes in particular, wouldn’t mind if he did. The last shot of the episode is sharply on Bates’s face as he realizes it had to have been Mr Green (Nigel Harman) since Green has just been stupidly boastful at the kitchen’s dinner table, sneering at the memory of the opera singer, saying to avoid the screeching he “came downstairs” for a “bit of peace and quiet.”

Similarly Edith’s realization, confrontation with her pregnancy, her telling her London Aunt and their avowed mutual determination “to do away with” as a baby whatever is there. Their visit to and flight from an abortion clinic. For all its drawbacks, the depiction of Lady Edith’s choice not to have an abortion in the face of knowing how she will be driven to give up her child because unless she consents to be ostracized she and her child will be continually humiliated in public gets to the crux of life’s difficulties. Lady Rosamund’s veering back and forth between horror at the abortion and acceptance, and then intense dismay at the idea Edith will keep the baby and deep sympathy allows us to experience the real risks, costs, pains. The continual parallel shooting of them is emotionally arresting.


These are interwoven with scenes in the library between Edith and Lord and Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) where we are expected to believe they never thought of what makes Edith nauseous and just plain ill, debilitated. I cannot believe her parents would not see the obvious, dumb though Lord and Lady Grantham often are:

Alas, a weakness here is it’s improbable that Cora, Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) would not guess what’s the matter.

The third is the courtship of Mary: fairy tale-three suitors: two are childhood sweethearts, Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), and Evelyn Nadier (Brendon Parks); a third, Charles Blake (Julian Overden) a new-comer among them, empowered to study clever and money-making business practices in an effort to keep Downton viable as an over-grown farm business. If you watch the scene where Lord Gillingham returns to Downton unexpectedly and he and Mary walk down the stairs, you see their skin blench, how much their bodies move in akimbo rhythms. Their love come out of their open faces. Mary is beginning pig farmer, and the night she and Blake visit the pen after dinner finds the pigs almost dead from lack of water. They are a muddy fire brigade, bonding over the pails and then again after cleaning up a bit scrambled eggs and wine in the kitchen:


If you watch the film with care, and slow down the scenes between Mary and Gillingham, you see they are in love — and quite naturally, far more than Mary and Matthew ever were in a gut way. (Dan Steevens was being groomed for an estrangement eventually — if you watch parts of Christmas Season 3 carefully you see this). The sparring of Blake and Mary is fun and also the pig incident (showing she can be earthy) but he is no egalitarian – his thoughts are all about aristocrats and his annoyance with them for losing their estates. It’s The Portrait of a Lady stuff before Jane Campion pointed out the fallacies of the heroine chased by endless super-acceptable heroes

To conclude, this thread, Blake is led to respect Mary and she to trust to his integrity. But this romance means more as it is part of the larger (across the whole series) question of what is to become of places and landscapes like Downton. The probably untenable idealism of this story is Downton ends up supported by supporting others. We are to believe the money works out, just.

The last of the four serious stories, however brief and continually cut and recombined, Tom’s embedding into the family to the point he is no socialist and drives with Lady Isobel Crawley as a pair, brings us back to class, ethnicity (Irish versus English):


and then is invited to go to a political rally for a Lloyd-George type, which never takes places — since Mrs Crawley had to go to France for her son’s proud-wisdom, and her romantic walk about the balconies. He meets Daisy Lewis (Sarah Bunting) young woman schoolteacher while at the political meeting, and is just the type who would fit into Tom’s world and he needs company.

schoolteacher (1)

We begin to see the solution to Tom’s difficulty: here is a wife he would feel right to marry and whom he could bring home to the family, just, and take his daughter to live with.

The serious themes directly engaged in here are lacking utterly in the way the other two stories are developed. Yes Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James) going out with an African-English man, Jack Ross (Gary Carr) would seem to be about the racial divide, but it’s done sheerly for picturesque romance, her hat and the frisson of seeing (racialist really) the interracial kiss is the point. The dialogue is cliched and worse, he doubts he is acceptable and asks where is this going (he does not need a duenna):

schoolteacher (2)

And the four-way grave (Alfred [Matt Milne] and Daisy [Sophia McShea]) and gay (Jimmy [Ed Speleers] and Ivy [Cara Theobold]) couple, with their musical dance something out of Restoration comedy is truncated as if lest Fellowes would have to go into the characters’ having serious feelings, which he avoids. Fellowes just cannot get up enough absorption in his material to bring forth new varied erotic material in the kitchen: Daisy carries on berating Ivy (Cara Theobold) who knows Jimmy (Ed Speleers) couldn’t care tuppence for her. Alfred (Matt Milner) comes for a visit from his hotel in Manhattan, to see his parents and has time to spend a day at Downton.

The excuse is Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nichol) cannot bear the dissension between the hurt Daisy and apparently easy-going comfortable Ivy. She is okay in her skin at the same time as she just pushes Jimmy and his advances off without a qualm: he: “I only asked what a million men would ask,” to which she: “I only answered what a million women would answer.” Alfred is not allowed to stay the night by putting him off with a lie that Mrs Hughes Phyllis Logan) and Mrs Patmore both have the flu, and Mr Carson (Jim Carter) must foot the bill for Alfred’s stay at an inn and dinner with him.

Violet Lady Grantham’s illness, bronchitis which could turn into a dead pneumonia seems almost out of place, not part of the whole, especially as after one brief scene where Mary and Cora Lady Grantham stop by to ask if there is anything they could do, the thread spins out without reference to anything occurring in the rest of the episode. Mrs Crawley’s complete self-sacrifice for the sake of her old “enemy” who, ill as she is, carries on insulting and dismissive of her is not attached to moving Mrs Crawley out of herself and her mourning. Maybe Fellowes felt Maggie Smith’s obvious sudden greater aging these past two seasons


were there to be used as a “slice of life.”

I wouldn’t want to give it up as it humanizes the dowager and I so enjoyed their concluding moment: Violet wants Dr Clarkson (David Robb) to throw Isobel out forthwith once she is better, and when he gently reproaches her, telling her how Isobel saved her life, she does obey her better self and asks Isobel for some help and says yes she’d like company. Cut to a couple of other scenes and second from the last we see the two of them playing gin rummy late at night all warm chums. Violet: “I had forgotten how much fun this is.” They’d like it to go on. Isobel: “We can play again.” Violet: “Oh goodie …-”

This makes a sharp contrast to the previous scene of Mrs Hughes warning Green:

She: “I know who you are and I know what you did and while you’re here if you value your life you should stop offering jokes and keep to the shadow … ”

He tries to say both drunk but she’s not having any of that, then he tries thanks for her not telling Bates, which implication she rebuts by saying she didn’t stay silent for him, and the final scene of Bates’s stare at Green’s face unaware that he has given himself away.


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Bates emerging from the cottage where he now lives alone: second shot

Bates walking the walk, last shot, having just said ‘Nothing is over and done with, Mrs Hughes … Be aware nothing is over. Nothing is done with.”

Mrs Hughes: ‘Why must you be so hard on Mr Bates? … Don’t you want to be honest?’
Anna: But I know him. I know what he’d do. I can’t risk his future … ‘

Hamlet: ‘What would he do/Had he the motive and the cue for passion/That I have? …’

Dear friends and readers,

In Part 5 of this season, there is a remarkable departure from just about all the parts we’ve had in four seasons: the multi-plot structure where at least 3 stories and 3 sets of characters (sometimes more) seen throughout Downton Abbey gives way to an almost Hamlet-like structure: the story of the Bates’s (Brendon Coyle and Joanne Froggart) dominates in way we’ve not seen before: I counted 11 separate scenes where he is either on-screen, or the center of a strained discussion, several of them long, cut up (segmented or interwoven with others), with Bates himself opening and closing the hour.

We have the usual parallel themes, here of of suspicion: Violet, Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith) convinced young Pegg (not credited on IMBD) is a thief and acting on it:

Lady Grantham asserts it does matter that something was stolen;

pride: Molesley (Bernard Gallagher) painfully holding firm to his sense of himself no matter how self-destructive this is

Molesley cannot forget this sense of himself, of what’s due him from him;

the farmer’s son, Tim Drew (Andrew Scarborough) holding on to his place in the order of things

Does not the past mean something?;

stories which spins further away: the new lady’s maid, Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) with her sewing machine has a past she must hide and can be blackmailed on

No problem sewing Mrs Patmore’s (Lesley Nichol) apron;

or belong to another order of feeling: Alfred’s (Matt Milne’s) competing to become a chef at world-city French restaurant; part of attenuated conventional love stories: Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) again half-courted by someone from her past, Evelyn, Lord Napier(Brendon Patricks) and Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) emerging pregnancy; with Michael Gregson (Charles Edward), the father vanished, she bravely prosaically takes a cab to a gynecologist


(Again for a recap see I should have been a blogger.)

But what grips and holds the attention is Mr Bates’s increasing seething wrath and his perception (Bates is no fool) that the man who violently raped Anna was Lord Gillingham’s valet, Mr Green (Nigel Harman), and Anna’s way of silencing, countering, repressing him. They have five extraordinary scenes, from which I pick just this still of Anna:


She refuses to be touched by him, to allow him to have sex with her. As played by Froggart, she feels more than shamed, dirtied, to blamed, the very act of sex has become distasteful to her, bringing back memories; and we do get this sense that she has become aware that marriage is a kind of forced sex too.

The slightest gesture electrified with wild feeling:

he covers her hand with his when he begins to compel her to admit to the assault

I say he is no Hamlet because do not think for a moment he doubts who did it: to Mrs Hughes: ‘Was it the last night of the house party? … Then I know who it really was … I don’t believe you, I do not believe you, I think it was Lord Gillingham’s valet … The way his teeth are seen reminded me of a fox’s teeth, pointed, jagged:

Talking to Mrs Hughes

Yes implicitly we are let into Anna’s changed understanding of her husband since he was let out of jail: she now knows what he’d do. Mrs Hughes tells him no use pulling his knife on her; she will not tell. More interestingly is A moment later though, Bates is seen crying, and then seeks Anna out. While he knows the way to win Anna back is to assert she is not ‘found out’ or ‘spoiled’ or less loved by him: “I have never been prouder nor loved you more than I love you at this moment now. She: ‘Truly?’ He: ‘Truly’


Like Molseley, he knows ‘it’s too late’ to turn away, pretend to ignore or forget the crashing awakening trauma that has changed things. The man must not get away with it; some retaliation is from him a burning need: ‘if it was the valet, he is a dead man.’

Beyond the importance of structure, this part reveals how central is the script of a film. It provides not just what is uttered (and words matter, movies have words in them) but the tool of how everything is put together, what elides, what blends, what shifts from one angle and shot (a movie’s unit of meaning) to another.

Formulas and manuals of screenplay writing insist they must propel forward somehow or other at all times, stay within a tight pattern ever on the move; Fellowes’s scripts are not like this: they meander, they spend time filling in from memory, the past, filling characters out; this one is makes for a poetry of gouged feeling all round — even Jimmy cannot resist the spiteful suggestion that Alfred did not just miss winning a place. The characters are not given the variety nor verbal subtlety or density they’d have in a novel, but as ensemble art, this one’s sudden compression of all the others stories into slots interrupting Anna and John Bates’s agon is worth observing for anyone seeking to understand and defend soap opera and costume drama aesthetics and ways of commenting on its viewers’ worlds.

The first shot of Anna shows her in her room, a book on her table, nearing a window and mirror; this is the second

It strikes me I should have asked why is Bates made the center of the agon and not Anna, after all he was not raped. This is strong evidence of the masculinist discourse and emphasis everywhere we go; there is justice done Anna, and the actress, Froggart manages to convey an enormous amount of what she endures, suffers, is silent over. Since she has refused to tell, refused to act, will not confide in anyone, however, probable this may seem, she cannot be the center of a popularly appealing drama — we see here why it’s necessary to leave realism to put the woman’s point of view across.

Mrs Hughes as conduit


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Anna (Joanne Froggart) showing herself to Mrs Hughes minutes after the rape (Downton Abbey, Part 3)

Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan): ‘If you are with child?’ Anna: ‘I will kill myself.’ Mrs Hughes: ‘I won’t listen to that. We must go to the police.’

Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery): Matthew fills my mind still and I don’t want to be without him, not yet. I will never love again as I loved … I must have something to remember …

Mr Carson (Jim Carter): All we have are our memories

Dear friends and readers,

Does everyone know that a weekend in the country, a house party where a group of people sleep for several nights nearby one another and no one is policing the dark, can be dangerous? if you didn’t, if you watched these two remarkable episodes, you do now. In case we didn’t get it (or you haven’t seen Gosford Park or just as telling the 1974 Pallisers, Brideshead Revisited or any number of country house mysteries), this is underlined towards the end of the 4th part when Edith (Laura Carmichael) tells Michael Gregson (Charles Edward), her newspaper man with a past she does not know enough about that on one of these risky weekends long ago her parents were at least in the right bed or the legally allowed one at midnight.

While the treatment of grief and mourning in parts 1 & 2 left much to be desired, the overall perspective, details and (as it will evolve) fall-out and aftermath that results from an aggravated rape (sexual assault) and relentless sexual stalking; an attempt to outwit a man who lives by cheating at gambling; and the ignorantly snobbish behavior of many of the Crawleys (and key servants) — are thought through or intuitively presented with sufficient believable ramifications as to be worth watching and thinking about carefully. I wish I had the scripts for these two parts and hope that eventually Fellowes does publish them as he has those for Season 1 and 2. Fellowes weaves several love-and-sex stories together in a thematized mix amid his on-going exploration of how widowed or lone people deal with the loss of a beloved person. Again I refer to other recaps for details, and instead move onto evaluation and commentary

Multi-plotting of this type across a couple of hours makes for so many parallels and ironic undercutting one can go through only the central ones. The one that has garnered most attention — the aggravated rape of Anna by Lord Gillingham’s (Tom Cullen) brutal valet, Mr Green (Nigel Harman)– is paralleled in several ways. First the most painful thing to understand (which Mrs Hughes’s acquiescence in Anna’s silence acknowledges) is that Anna would not win in a court of law even if she could prove this aggravated assault. To do that would have taken at least seeing Dr Clarkson immediately and making plain before all what had happened, showing her wounds and the private ones too. This would shame Anna and even if she were believed, carefully planted over the course of the first hour are several incidents where Anna favors Mr Green, the most striking being the wild card game where Mr Bates’s (Brendon Coyle) real jealousy and resentment leads him to scold Anna for making merry while Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nichol) is coming near to a heart attack as she tries to marshall her meager staff (for such a party) to produce the same kind of exquisite gourmet food as was de rigueur 20 years before the war. And we are not very far away from this kind of blaming and refusal to acknowledge a woman’s right to say no: a couple of summers ago now, a young woman who phoned the police for help was found drunk on the floor and they proceeded to rape her, and through the use of videos and their prestige, the case ravaged the young woman’s reputation.

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Card game captures Miss Braithwaite next to Mr Green

Equally interestingly still today is the assumption that Mr Bates would try to murder Mr Green if he knew a rape had occurred, and Mr Green had gone off scot-free. This not because the fear leads us to suspect that after all perhaps Bates did murder his first wife, was complicit in a robbery that sent him to prison for 2 years at one point and can be a dangerous man himself when aroused: among the scenes we see of him apart from others include a menacing threat of Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier), in the prison he terrifies a fellow-prisoner into leaving him alone. These suspicious realities about potentials in the man’s character (I fear) just make him an eligible manly male (attractive) in today’s violent rape culture.

It’s rather the reactionary stance taking the law into your own hands that returns us to 18th and 19th century male duelling over perceived insults to one’s honor (especially in the case of women). It fits a world view which says that law cannot deal with all things because it won’t — and since Anna would not tell, would not go to the police and now it’s too late, the rapist is really all set to get away with it. Again the 1920s costumes and modes of talking may disguise a world where honor-killing is still infrequently punished. In reality were this rape to have happened at the abbey in the 1920s, and it’s not improbable maids were raped not infrequently by the upper class males or whoever thought he could get away with it — the rapist would go unpunished. And as we shall see this perceived possible result and the reaction of others to it will be part of the important aftermath.

As yet in these two episodes only Anna’s understandable revulsion is operative as she moves out of her home with Bates to return to a kind of virgin existence up in the attic — because he is as yet only grieving with hurt and has not as yet grasped what happened. I feel for her here, and have experienced the distaste a woman can have when she is forced to have sex with two men say within one week.

Part 4 brings out the importance of Miss Braithwaite’s (MyAnna Burling) stalking of Tom Branson (Allen Leech). She quickly observes his discomfort among these upper class people and depression, his lack of self-esteem and takes advantage of it, putting herself in his way at every opportunity, there to feed him liquor. Since the blog I referred to for a recap has suggested this was rape I feel I need to say a bit more in order to distinguish what is so repellent about Braithwaite’s manipulations. What happens in the bedroom (which we don’t witness any more than we witness Anna’s rape or the early partly coerced sex Lady Mary Has with Kemal Pamuk [Theo James]) lacks the crucial element of compulsion. Stalking as only recently been recognized as a crime and then you can only go to law if you are threatened with physical hurt in some way. Courts are (alas) notoriously unwilling to convict someone for bullying someone else, and in effect Braithwaite bullies Tom. Braithwaite is morally injuring Tom deeply, but much as we may deplore this, like Anna he is right to want to hide what happened from the family, and this gives her her weapon (again shame, he is shamed). They will regard him as having lowered himself by having sex with a servant. Drunkenness only makes the act worse.

In both cases Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) is our person trying to act justly; Tom is also to blame she says, Anna was not. Anna should have called the police because Mr Green is “an evil violent man” (Mrs Hughes also uses the word “vile”). Miss Braithwaite is merely despicable in her claim she is pregnant and Tom must therefore marry her, pernicious in her ability to work on Tom’s anxieties (he fears his new relatives will reject him) but herself open to spying (as she is a servant in a household Mrs Hughes controls) and thus her silly book about how to prevent and control pregnancy is found by Mrs Hughes who counts on Miss Braithwaite’s fear that in a “he said, she said” scene before the family, Tom will be believed. The weakness of Miss Braithwaite’s real social position enables Mrs Hughes to eject her with ease.

As with the assumption by all that Bates’s violence is understandable and to be somehow manipulated (not regarded with abhorrence) so I ask everyone to take note of the violence of Mrs Hughes’s threats: she assumes she has the right to “tear [Braithwaite’s clothes off” to examine her body. A long history of society thinking its members have the right to accost womens’ bodies especially if they are claiming illegitimate pregnancy lies behind this and is found today again in the vicious legislation passed by several Republican state houses that a doctor can in effect violate a young woman who is pregnant to discover what trimester she is in. Some may sympathize (really) with Miss Braithwaite’s desire to go up in the world (though this is condemned by Fellowes) but the issue here is that her private space is not considerable inviolable also precisely because she’s lower class.

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There are two other sexual relationships that parallel and partly undercut these. Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers) is trying to persuade Ivy (Cara Theobold) sufficiently of his affection to take her out alone with him to a play or movie. We are shown enough of his character to see he cares only for himself, but the mean motivations only slowly emerge as the counter story of the Alfred Nugent’s (Matt Milne) real affection for Ivy and genuine career aspirations to be a cook, which Jimmy mocks as beneath a man. Alfred: “We don’t all have to live off battered fish and meat pies.” Daisy’s Sophie McShea) yearning after the good man captures our attention too. This thread is part of the problem of decent employment that is a major theme of this series.

Daisy cooking, Alfred studying

We will see Jimmy take Ivy out, get her drunk at one point and at another attempt to take advantage of her. But unlike Tom, her sense of selfhood has not been damaged and while succumbing to drunken sickness, she will throw him physically (if not emotionally) off.

The second is Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) love affair with Michael Gregson (Charles Edward). Let me state unequivocally the series shows her as right to trust him and give of herself to him — this is a parallel to Anna’s trust of Bates whose chequered past is not a measure of his full character. As Bates used his ability to forge signatures in the second part of this series to help Molesley (Kevin Doyle) so Gregson’s past where he apparently knows how to win at cards through skilful cheating is used by him to rescue Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) from another crushing debt and expose the petty criminal type, Sampson (Terence Alexander). All we have our are memories says Mr Carter of his loss of Alice and Edith is making beautiful memories for herself. Her aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick (Samantha Bond) is once again wrong (and her sarcasms unkind as Edith tells her) to heap scorn on her niece from the argument that the double standard has merit, but what is interesting about this is again an ambiguity and generosity of approach, for Rosamund will befriend Edith later on when Edith makes the difficult and strongly unconventional decision to have her baby.

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On the set (one of these promotional jolly shots) when they have become strained allies

Rosamund will not have heart enough to understand that Edith wants to mother her baby but she does go much further in the direction of emotional decency than we have seen so far. And Violet the Dowager’s (Maggie Smith) silence when she intelligently guesses what’s afoot speaks well for her too.

I grant that Edith is again used as a scapegoat, and continue to be puzzled at mean-minded comments (on facebook the other day) about her (jeering at her naivete), but then she’s in good company, her good nature making her vulnerable: this is true of Tom, Anna, Molseley whose efforts to keep his status are suddenly held against him — as he says a reverse of the values he was led to suppose the other characters really believe in.

I’ll go out on a limb and make a speculative guess: in an effort to get a divorce, Michael goes to Germany and then disappears from his flat, and thus cannot be told of Edith’s coming baby nor his responsibilities towards her. I am going to predict we find that Sampson got back at Gregson through his contacts. Lord Grantham declares Gregson’s behavior that of a gentleman and one moral last and this week’s part is the bleak (impossible) one that only by knowing ahead, and being on guard and as ruthless as the evil of the world can you protect yourself. Like Bates, like Grantham, like Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), Michael has too much idealism in him. After all he paid Edith to write feminist columns; a far cry from Sir Richard Carlyle (Iain Clarke), unscrupulous newspaper magnate.


It will be said I’ve left out a couple, or two couples: Lady Mary’s touching reunion with Lord Gillingham (if he is a pirate, he is a sweet one), as a childhood sweetheart she is probably more congenial with than she ever was with Matthew. Rose (Lily James) begins a (totally forbidden in the time) relationship with a black jazz singer, Jack Ross (Gary Carr.) Given their untouchable status, Lady Mary’s lack of vulnerability and resurgence of a strong self-esteem, coolness, and Rose’s childlike perception of the world, partly from the constant chaperoning, they are at no risk of rape, stalking, or exploitation. Lady Mary’s slowly growing love for Lord Gillingham is part of the development of how her real grief for Matthew continues to control her conduct and perceptions. She finds herself unable to revert to what she was before she met Matthew, unable to act as selfishly as she once did; his presence, her memories of him continue to fill her mind and heart — even though she can recognize a second good partner for life when she sees one.

Her genuine behavior when she is relieved to experience cheerfulness, enjoy dancing, riding, talk again occasions some of the most moving moments about sorrow. These emerge from Mrs Reginald (suddenly we are asked to “remember” how Isobel’s marriage was a happy one) Crawley’s watches Lady Mary and (as Violet remarks) acts nobly and admirably. When at dinner and sitting next to Tom (a widower himself) she says: “you’re all alive and my son’s dead,” but she knows that she ought not to want Mary not to spend all her life grieving and goes over to meet and shake hands with Lord Gillingham, knowing he may replace Matthew.


Rose still wants nothing more than to go dancing in London and when Lady Mary comes up to London with Tom, to deal with tax authorities, they go to a nightclub with Aunt Rosamund. She accepts a dancing invitation from Sir John Bullock (Andrew Alexander) who in his drunken state proceeds to (a lout) to grope her, another version of sexual transgression though in the area of acute embarrassment for a girl with sensitivities as who has not?). At the house party Bullock proved himself a fool when he is taken in by Sampson; Rose had taken the high ground and showed herself all courtesy to him. His reaction: take advantage. She finds a handsome jazz singer, very African in look, cuts in on the half-drunken lord and whirls her away. The disgust the horrified Lady Rosamund immediately manifests is a piece with her hard reaction to the joy Edith knows in her relationship with Michael. It is to Fellowes’s credit that he has twice used the character of Rose to stigmatize and critique the way the upper class males assume they can do as they like with women and show decency among the white working class and now black entertainers. I am not sure it goes further than that with him.

Have I omitted anything valuable further? I’d like to mention the kindliness of the Duchess of Yeovil (beautifully played by Joanna David) to Tom; she is unfairly distrusted by Lord Grantham, as obtuse (or transparent as Lady Mary calls it) as his wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) except for her moment of recognizing the stature of Nellie Melba, the opera singer. Lady Raven (role uncredited), one of the growing number of upper class single aging women who we are told lives in a small flat “north of the park” (in London). Mrs Hughes tells Mr Carson that is no reason to think himself superior; the real pity of their lives is that of widowhood. Dr Clarkson (David Robb) gradually drawing Isobel out to become his aid and nurse; we have a quiet scene where she is helping one Mrs Pegg and her fatherless child.

Kiri Te Kanawa as Dame Nellie. Not invited to eat with the family! A hireling who knows better than to complain (as she does take the salary). It is during her performance that Anna is raped, Michael Gregson exposes Sampson, Mrs Crawley tells Lady Violet that she prefers Bartok to Puccini (not really commensurate but this is naturalism).

Nellie Melba was a Victorian opera singer


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An 18th century French wedding announcement: celebrating the new civil secular companionate egalitarian marriage ideal

Dear friends and readers,

As part of my project (reading around) a review of Mary Trouille’s Wife Abuse in 18th Century France, I’m reading through (half-skimming) Suzanne Desasn’s important The Family on Trial in Revolutionary France. Dezan’s is yet another superb book based on these popular judicial memoirs, secret correspondences, and memoirs so popular in the 18th century (others are Maza’s Private Lives and Public Affairs, and Robert Darnton’s books). Dezans’s takes us through the new liberal legislation of the 1790s with regard to marriage, inheritance, divorce law, property. Some so sweeping you are startled and some so liberal that it was not until the 1970s that laws in France and the UK matched what was first promulgated in the assemblies of the French in the first three years of the French revolution.

Laws influence the way we act: we go to court and use them to argue points of view, and when new norms are put in places, people can speak of what they didn’t before. Alas in the US we are going in the opposite direction, viz, the attempt to redefine rape is truly frightening — I’m told the legislation has been withdrawn so strong were the protests. a law was to redefine rape whereby a woman would not be considered raped if she did not produce broken bones and bruises. Until the end of the 19th century a woman had to prove her life in danger from her husband’s beatings to get a divorce. Wife-beating was allowed; until 1891 in the UK no judge had said that a woman need not return to her husband if he demanded it.

There’ve been threads on this on both my other women’s lists (women’s studies, women’s poetry). This from women’s enews shows the state of things now. I’ve had two girl students tell me that when they were raped (and it happens) and went to a police stations, they were laughed at. They were told to go home and forget about it; they’d be better off.

I realize the congressional initiative is a political ploy to stop abortion, that the women concerned are poor women who would apply to the government for money for their abortions. But the symbolic effect matters, and in law it could be made further reaching: for example, it can be applied to government tax credits being given to businesses offering insurance plans that cover abortions …

Moreover, what is put on law books is important in re-defining public perceptions and thus values and judgements. Well this is just the central perspective of Trouille and Dezan’s books on wife abuse in 18th century France. In 1792 the most liberal divorce law ever promulgated in France was passed; the present one (2011) is not so liberal. While it was gradually turned back, the 11 years these new laws (which allowed divorce for incompatibility) were on the records, they encouraged people who had thought in enlightened ways before to come out and speak and act on it and that changed what was seen as reality.

Anyway like Maza, Darnton and Trouille Dezan uses novels to back her argument — to show that in the population readers were reading and writers writing out some of these usually hitherto unspoken assumptions and desires (except in treatises and radical works). One she cited was a French novel whose subtitle was The Necessity of Divorce. I looked at it and translated the French, Emilie de Varmont, ou le divorce necessaire into Emily de Varmont as the first half of the title, and lo and behold I found this novel in ECCO. It was written by Jean-Baptiste, Louvet de Couvray the first president of the assembly. So you thought well-known public statemen never wrote novels — in this era lawyers wrote novel-like radical memoirs based on life-writing and their court cases. Emilie de Varmont was almost immediately translated (perhaps by a woman) and is a lively epistolary novel. I downloaded it and will be reading it in the next week or so.

You can find this English version online and buy it through Google:

Not very appetizing (a facsimile run-off reprint)?

There is a pretty modern facsimile whose cover testifies to the story occurring in Switzerland like any good partly Rousseau-inspired 18th century novel:

and there is a modern French paperback with what looks like an introduction by , Geneviève Goubier-Robert and Pierre Hartmann:

Perhaps I should have called this blog “Fun from or with ECCO.”

Not all that was so praised and presented was so great: republican motherhood re-put women in a Rousseau-rooted captivity and urged women to teach their sons militarism and unthinking patriotisms. But this too is important to see.

A larger point to conclude with: perhaps after all the French revolution provided some long-term profit or coming change for women. Even if the clock was turned back to severe repression of women and subjective techniques of terror (like wife beating), for decades to come, the liberal legislation that had been put into effect was remembered; while there it made a liberating impact on those women’s lives who could avail themselves of it and many did.


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Morwenna (Jane Wyman) about to be raped by her husband, Osborne Whitworth (Poldark 1977-78, second season)

Near casual execution of a group of men who happen to have Ross among them (also season 2)

Dear friends and readers,

As I didn’t want to make another over-long blog, I’ve divided up what I want to say about this book into two parts (see Part 1). That the first fourth or so of Black Moon showed Graham getting back into Poldark’s Cornwall after a 20 year pause and the second half of the book two central stories made it easy. Graham once half-apologized for the too strong optimism of his Poldark novels; that’s not true here, what happiness people have is snatched from the jaws of death and violence, and the bleak undercurrents of the first four book come into prominence.

I get such comfort from this book. Each night I reach for it – or another by Graham. It’s the ethical awareness of the darkness that does it. One night Jim looked at my Black Moon book and said “you’re coming to the end, what will you do?” I said “Read the next. And I’m nowhere hear running out as yet. As I read a new one I buy the next two books on” [so I’ve just bought Stranger from the Sea) Then I’ll reread them once during the day. And there’s the film adaptation to study a bit too. Not to worry …”

An outline of the whole novel, see comment. For those interested in the mini-series, Season 2, Parts 1-5 more or less correspond to The Black Moon.


Morwenna under strong pressure from Elizabeth Warleggan (now) to marry Whitworth

Book Two, Chapters 4-5: What an arranged marriage means

I left off with Ross ploughing weekly “through the snow and ice to see Aunt Agatha ..” (p. 260)

Graham has brought home to me for the first time the full sense of horrified shrinking away, terror, and then if and when forced bodily disgust a girl forced to marry a man sexually unappetizing (to say the least of it) to her. I’m now aware how in most if not all of these 18th and 19th century novels the novelist does not really imagine the girl going to bed with the guy. The only scene I know where we are invited into the bedroom is George Sand’s Valentine where the girl locks the man out, he gets in, and she jumps out of the window and won’t live with him. It does bring home what’s happening in an arranged marriage (Trollope does say Lady Glencora Palliser was driven like a cow to a stud or some such words but he does not make us feel it).

A great deal of Bk 2 chapter 4-5 is taken up by two stories of experiences happening at Trenwith. Ross continues to visit Aunt Agatha once a week and by his implicitly threatening presence wring better treatment for her: a clean bed, clean room, no smell, attentions. He cannot get her to return with him to his home. We have scenes between them (e.g., pp. 261-63).

Ross (Robin Ellis) trying to persuade Aunt Agatha (Eileen May) to come back to his house and live with him and Demelza; in the film and book Caroline Penvenen (Judy Geeson) comes with him the first time

At Cardew and now at Trenwith intense pressure is put on Morwena to marry Osborne Whitworth. It’s introduced by the scenes of hard negotiation between George and this man. What’s so good is the banal reality of this horror. They haggle and now the price is driven up and now down. George recognizes the man is a shit but he knows he’s a shit too. He even begins “rather to dislike this conceited young man,” but we see George’s desire for the connection overrules all and how he can persuade himself he is doing right for Morwenna because the illegitimate norms encourage what he’s doing (p. 271-72). It’s very ugly.

It’s followed by the scene between Elizabeth and Morwenna pictured above (first still of blog). Elizabeth inwardly (says Graham) sympathized, but hides it. She commits this kind of cop-out complicity throughout this novel. Much evil occurs in the world because people say and do nothing against it. She is driving Morwenna in order to keep her own marriage with George going on the terms it’s started; and when asked if she doesn’t value love she lies: she says she loved Francis and the love was gone in a year. She never did. If she is capable of tender love and affection — or intensely sensual enjoyment — she’s never been sufficiently aroused by a man to keep it up; the sense (I admit) is that night with Ross could have had sequels of love but since he did not return, she never knew anything beyond what she acquiesces with George (pp. 274-8).

Then we have a long letter from Enys (latter part of Chapter 4) which reaches Caroline telling of the prison conditions (pp. 279-82). Most powerful are how it is one of the letters embedded in the novel’s passages about the weather and movement of time. In the earlier novels he had had discipline just to use enough history to really bring scenes alive, now he seems moving towards a geological or deeply felt rhythmic recreation of this older world, e.g,. opening of Chapter 6, p 300. This intermingled with the reports of so many dying in the wars, eg., 276-78. It’s such a passage that introduces Enys’s letter. There are caps here but not so many (they do jar as they would not be used so sparringly).

Back to Trenwith and the Warleggans’ plans. The problem is Morwenna buys into these people’s values;that’s why she cannot fight them forcefully enough. She cannot get herself to be firm in any direction. This is what will destroy her; the brilliance of this is this is the novel shows her her compliance is what people use after extractng it and then blame her for not wanting to keep to it — it’s touched on deeply in Austen’s Persuasion when Wentworth blames Anne for her hesitation, but what she hesitates on is not a direct threat. It’s in fact someone urging her to protect herself by not marrying.

Here the reality of people trespassing on women is felt at its core. In the scene where Osborne now satisfied (just) with his payment begins the first serious “courtship.” They are left alone. It’s in such lines as this:

“Morwenna withdrew her hand. During this avowal [as Osborne asserts “their love will grow”- she had glanced up at her suitor’s face and seen a momentary expression in his eyes that a more experienced woman would have recognized as lust” (Chapter 5, p. 291)

Her reaction does help but not enough:

“She saw it only briefly and as something startling and dislikeable. Stumbling and embarrassed, she began again. Part hostile towards him, part apologetic, she told him that she did not in fact return his sentiments at all, and that she feared she might never do so” (p. 292)

And why not enough because everything around them encourages him to trespass against this no and her to disavow it (including a letter from her mother urging her to marry this prize.) Alas she does not keep to this resolve and by the end of the scene is asking only for time. Austen’s parallel scene in Pride and Prejudice of Collins and Elizabeth lacks this level of apprehension — the anger and threat of Collins does not quite move into the body.

Osborne does see and hear of course:

“there was a core of resolve in this slim, shy girl and that it had to be tactfully overcome before a wedding day could be fixed. For the moment he would have to be content with his sick fancies” (p. 292).

His sick fancies. We are told of Osborne’s first wife that “he had bestowed his attentions on twice weekly [on his first wife] until she died of it” (p. 289)

Then there follows Drake’s first Sunday visit (Chapter 5) to Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles in months: he can visit because George and Elizabeth are not living at Trenwith as yet. Geoffrey Charles longs to see Drake and Morwenna has acquiesced. She tries to elude him. Geoffrey Charles is made more naive than he would be so he doesn’t notice what’s happening. The scene is distressing and moving as the two of them stand there and she feel sin her bones how her family would all be horrified and despise her and yet likes him so. When she sees him “the release, the relief, was breath of life to her” (p. 296). As the moments go on she remembers and they begin to talk, partly facilitated by Geoffrey Charles. She is happier and more herself than she has been for weeks. She then is alone at a door in a corridor with Drake (a rare blessedly un-renovated place) and tries to tell him he must leave her forever. As she will fail to tell Osborne in the next scene she finds it anathema to marry him but only begs for time, here she collapses at Drake’s pressure:

“‘It is all I can tell you.’
‘No … That’s not all, Morwenna. Just — just look at me. Just show me your heart and tell me to go.’
She hesitated and then turned, her eyes blind with tears.
‘Don’t go, Drake … At least no just yet. Oh, Drake … please don’t go …’ (p. 299)

Then the chapter (6) ceases and another begins. As with Ross’s rape of Elizabeth (in Warleggan) and what happened over the course of that night, we are not privy to this. I assume they did have some version of sexual experience but in a corridor by a door with her a virgin, not much could happen. Enough to awaken her, for in the next chapters her blood and feelings are aroused and she cannot dismiss him from her mind.

Trollope has a novel where an aunt drives her niece to suicide (Linda Tressel) by insisting she marry a vile old man; but she does commit suicide first and we never feel she would have gone to bed with him; the emphasis is on the cruelty of the aunt’s bitter denigrations and name-calling of her, resentment and anger that the girl wanted to and would have married a handsome (but we do know alas probably unworthy young man) and hatred and fear of life and sex. Edith Wharton has a young girl in Summer seduced, impregnated and abandoned by a Willoughby type who in the end is driven to marry another vile older man but the novel does stop as she walks up the stairs. I could see Graham is going for the jugular and Morwenna will be coerced into marrying Osborne.


Ross and Demelza’s farmhouse (second season)

Book Two: Tholly Tregirls

Graham invents another new character who will enable him to make his text alive for the 1970s. Ross and Demelza come out of a 40s to 50s point of view. Morwenna, Drake and Tregirls the 70s. He is another ‘ghost returned’ (like Ross), an old friend of Ross’s, this time a disfiguring scar, an adventurer, someone who will re-involve Ross in smuggling — and I suspect the upcoming rescue of Enys (in the air, and anyway I saw the series past this phase). Something more amoral needed you see — as well as genuine stark oppression of women shown. Demelza says any friend of her husband’s is welcome to her house.

Those who know (Ross, Demelza, now Sam) continue to disapprove of Drake’s relationship with Demelza. George a patient man (thinks well of himself — as do many who do evil) has come to understand Morwenna’s intense reluctance to marry Whitwoth and she is given time.

Aunt Agatha’s party to which she wants to invite Ross and Demelza, and Elizabeth (cool as ever) doesn’t see why not.

France invaded which sends some into hoots of laughter.

Meanwhile under Geoffrey Charles’s unknowing eye, Drake and Morwenna continue to meet: “there had been tense, deeply emotional meeting which had matured their relationship as in a forcing house” (p. 319).

The story probably meant as comic of Drake successfully putting another bag of toads in George’s pond and eluding the efforts of George’s hired men to shot to kill him. His forearm badly hurt though, and he must avoid people. A conversation with Demelza where he justifies himself: “I’d believe two people — a man and a woman — in perfect harmony can give more to the world and to God than either of them can do separate” (p. 342)

That’s the way Demelza feels. Reath Cottage the place Mark Daniells built so badly continues to provide a place for some of this; in Graham’s mind this landscape where Enys lived to (the doctor who replaced Enys almost killed Valentine, Elizabeth’s child by Ross whom George thinks his heir — Enys is continually missed as is Francis).

Geoffrey Charles loves Drake because he feels himself rebelling against the cold stepfather who would discipline him and send him away to school (p. 347) and thus delights in the toads put in Geroge’s poind. It is of course sexually symbolic too.


Morwenna’s distress on the beach, Drake holding her (Kevin McNally), Geoffrey Charles watches

Book Three, Chapters 1 – 3: Morwenna and Drake found out

Tholly’s life, Ross meets him, the armies of the counterrevolutionaries have invaded France (Chapter 1), giving Ross his opportunity to sneak in with a band of men to save Enys. It’s obvious from further news the conditions at that prison are mortal for most.

Morwena and Drake are found out (Chapter 2). How: a busybody clergyman seeking to curry favor with George has the courage to tell him. Many know by this time but no one wants to tell as bad messenger. They fear George and Elizabeth remains remote.

The strength of the book comes out: no one is a crazy tyrant, no one is particularly filled with hatred, revenge or anything like that for the young couple, but not one person except Geoffrey Charles shows any effective sympathy. Silently Demelza lets her brother Drake know she understands, but she stands firm with Ross who regards this relationship as a nuisance.

George is cruel and mean in his words to Morwenna, implying she’s sexually unchaste, and has degrading tastes, is ungrateful, disgusting. His first impulse is to tell her she’s to go back to her parents and he’ll tell his great friend, Whitworth as no one would want “damaged goods” (to his credit Graham does not resort to that modern cliche). A long scene before Elizabeth does not evoke one word or sign of sympathy from her. She sees George is angry partly because he longed to go to bed with Mowenna. She hugs her kinswoman but does nothing beyond not corrode her soul further.

Sam, the religious brother, cannot understand Drake; he is given over to Satan it seems, and Sam is so sad that Drake will not come to a giant revival meeting: the methodists are growing apace as conditions become terrible. Drake and Morwenna have one more anguished scene, and we see him alone in Mark Daniel’s cottage hitting himself hard against the wall. Morwenna’s mother writes that she understands meanwhile pointing out all these advantages (like Mrs Dashwood in Austen’s S&S her letter comes after the knowledge of Drake and Morwenna’s meetings has come out).

And Geoffrey Charles, I now realize he is a combination of Francis and Elizabeth’s best qualities but he can’t fight his uncle-father (shades of Claudius): George is glad of this opportunity to send this rival away to school, separate Elizabeth and “make a man of him.” Yes thinks Elizabeth but knows better.

I can see that Elizabeth and Ross could have made a go of it. She would not have softened him, made him enter into the problems of really lower class types (Drake is just learning to write with Demelza’s tutelage) but they would have understood one anther and he would have brought out what was best in her.

She is willing to tolerate Aunt Agatha’s party, not herself spiteful which is at the heart of the way people deprive the ugly very aged of their heart’s desires no matter how foolish or useless. They’ll do it, few will come (most are dead) and it’ll be over inside 7 hours.


In the film Ross with Caroline asks to see George; and servant insolently blocks the way

Book Three, Chapters 3-5: violence the basis of whatever order it is; TV comparisons

As Graham moves into the last phase of Black Moon (phases of the moon strikes me as appropriate to this novel), we have several threads of high violence occurring. One off-stage; the invasion of France by counter-revolutionary armies and what we have heard is going on in Paris in partial panicked response to that invasion.

Ross we know is about to take advantage of this to free Enys: as he (too late) dragged Jim Carter from prison (to die), so he has at last realized the only way Enys is going to live and come back is to wrest him from prison. The prison he’s in is a real one at the time and located in the place it really was.

These two and the third are fully dramatized in the second series: the third is Ross’s visit to George. Ross realizes that the only way he can free Drake from the false trumped-up charge of stealing Geoffrey Charles’s Bible is to see George and ask him to drop the charges. Far from effective, Geoffrey Charles’s efforts are what leads to Drake almost being hanged.

Ross now remembers that going public first is no way to win over power. He was irritated and humiliated in public and anyway would have no ability to save Carter from a poaching charge for the upper class want to be seen to be punishing; they might do under cover what they would not admit to (free a man). The kind of naivete which led him to have a day in court for Jim Carter is gone — Carter was swiftly put in jail for poaching, no matter for what cause he did it and left to rot and die of disease. He thinks to round up friendly lawyers too (he won’t himself argue) but there is no time if he wants to leave for France on Monday. Further this business of depositions and the court scene he knows could go badly for Drake: he himself is not in sympathy with the young man for having courted Morwenna. (More: male-like, he blames her for implied looseness; Drake defends her fiercely but Ross brushes this off.) The upper class people on the bench, with George there, might just declare Drake guilty because they are incensed he dared to visit Trenwith regularly when he knew this was verboten.

(Luckily no one but Demelza knows Drake was the trickster putting toads in George’s pond — a visual pun that has sexual resonance when one remembers that Elizabeth realizes George is so hard on Morwenna because he wanted Morwenna himself.)

So (Part 3, Chapter 4) Ross visits George. Before setying off though he takes a hired gun in effect; his old friend, Tholly Tregirls now helping out the local madam of an unacknowledged brothel, Widow Sally Tregothnan’s “kiddley”. Perhaps too markedly Graham again likens this pair of to Don Quixote (Ross an idealist in his way) and Sancho Panza (Thollys a man of appetite, no morals). He has to force his way in. At first the butler (whom Ross had bullied when he visited the aunt regularly so no friend of Ross) says the master is not there, Ross insists citing he is there as a man of peace on an urgent matter. George of course has his lawyer with him, is sitting in a fine dressing gown, looking very well fed. Ross insists the lawyer leave.

Then the dialogue ensues. I’m not sure it is kept as is in the films though a version of this remarkable scene is there. At first George refuses to listen at all, then he insists Drake is guilty of stealing and to all Ross’s objections, will only parry (Geoffrey Charles is a child, he is taken off and will go to school). Ross realizes that only his original “promise” of their first meeting shortly after the marriage to Elizabeth will do. That is, if George will not act decently, he will counter as strongly — this time with force. Ross cites George’s enclosures, firing people, vicious traps, his whole behavior since marrying Elizabeth as what makes a man enemies; he, Ross, will rouse all to burn George’s house in retaliation. George is stunned:

“You cannot mean that.’ Ross can: “I have not come here to joke.”
George demands that he leave. Ross does (Bk 3, Ch 4, pp. 400-13). In Ross’s conversations with Tholly Tholly has agreed to accompany Ross to France.

We then switch to Trenwith and Elizabeth’s patient exasperation trying to accommodate Aunt Agatha’s demands for her birthday party, including a new dress. We see this first from Agatha’s mind: how Lucy Pike, the maid (whom Ross had to bully to take care fo the old woman) is useless, and how Morwenna was useful but suddenly not around. Then Elizabeth’s shouting her just contained patient replies, and then Elizabeth’s mind. She is upset herself because her son, Geoffrey Charles, is white with rage; he looks to her like Francis used to (p. 416). She foresees a separation from her son.She goes into Morwenna’s room. Morwenna has not slept but has not lost her reason. She is angry that Drake is arrested, at the injustice, and like Ross, asks Elizabeth if she thinks her son is lying; “why will you not accept your son’s word? Is it not enough.” No answer beyond the false: “Of course it will be taken into account.” “But he is not to appear, You sent him away.” Morwenna has not lost her poise. Still I wish Graham had been braver and shown her rocking and crying all the night through.

Elizabeth goes to visit her baby, Valentine, her one consolation: “his dark eyes sparked with mischief and he pulled at her frock and her hair … ” She has contentment “knowing he is hers.” (Not really for legitimately he is George’s.). The paragraph does not register her awareness the child is Ross’s, only her comfort in it (p. 418).

The use of point of view is effective: we then turn to Sam, hard at work in Ross’s mines, his mind troubled for Drake, his religiosity, his prayers, his disappointment in Drake and how he has to go against his principles and pray for Drake’s body to survive. He comes back to the hovel he shares with Drake and cooks and drained, telling himself to search his conscience, sleeps .He is awakened by a harrowed strained Drake. It seems the charges were simply dropped.

So the point is made about violence.

A kind of cliffhanger which I think is the result of (whatever he said to the contrary) Graham for the first time writing chapters in the novel with end of episodes in TV in mind.

Determined to thank Ross, Drake finds him and we see Ross from Drake’s standpoint and then point of view switches. Ross is not sympathetic still, and the experience with George (where George again insulted Demelza and Ross whipped out scorn for George’s lack of ancestry) has shaped his treatment of Demelza who brought these relatives to be his. Drake insists on thanking him and apologizes for his behavior (Ross thinks to himself he’s been to see Demelza that’s why that) and then says he will become a wanderer. Ross points out how that will turn him into a harried beggar, a total outcast; at first scorning the boy’s apparent desperate loss of love and then suddenly comparing hiim to himself, his real love for Demelza which has stayed and hers for him, asks Drake if he will go to France a some of the men, half-hoping from the silence Drake says no. But he says yes.

Ah we are to think poor Demelza, both brother and husband now at risk!

The TV people at the end of the first series did take Ross’s threat to George and made it come true without Ross’s instigation and made it the apocalyse: losing the meaning of the scene but gaining the unusual and leftist-leaning meaningful defeated close.


Book Three, Chapters 6-10: meaningful adventure sequence

I never said Graham can’t write adventure, did I? He certainly can, and he betters Daphne DuMaurier at it. I refer to my posting on Cornish gothic which as a type includes just such sequences as Ross’s leading the riot of the starving against the merchant ships coming into the Cornwall coves and now his leading a small band of men to go with the counter-revolutionary invasion (run by French aristocrats) into the Brittany, and turn off to Quimper All the information on the ancient prisons of Quimper are in French but I send it one full URL in the hope some of our readers may profit A map of the city/town and prisons compound. I can see the walls Ross and his men have to climb across going in and out.

What makes this historical novel better than DuMaurier’s and many another is that it is 1) shot through with a continual awareness of the politics of this place and the specific time, an awareness of what the existence of such a place means vis-a-vis human nature (there is nothing special about our 20th century gulags of horrific destruction/enslavery of people) and 3) the presence of the character Ross who goes because he cannot resist the adventure and yes suffers from ennui (in effect) and finds throughout that he is continually aware of how he must kill and rely on other to kill as they set forth, get into the prison, find Enys and bring him out. He is aided and abetted by the new pirate figure, Tholly Tregrils, who with his captain hook hand is as ruthless as anyone with a sharp rusty knife. Real hard cameraderie and effective pictorial sense of this man. The killing and deaths prevent it from being quite deja vue all over again (I allude to DiMaggio’s famous reworking) of Jim Carter where there were not these deaths as they were on home ground with Ross as respected landowner. Not here.

They lose Joe Nanfan who is shot across his head, they kill or wound in ghastly ways any number of French and English guards and people who get in their way. At one point Drake hesitates before jumping down a wall, and it emerges later he did this in an effort to deflect someone shooting at Ross and Ross goes livid with anger at the “boy” (out of guilt): who do you think you are, I don’t need this. And Drake is shot across the shoulder and becomes weak and ill and near death. But doesn’t die (this is a comfort fiction, folks). Drake also because thin, agile, small (like Demelza) at one point shimmies himself up a chimney and drags by a rope two lighter men after him and then the three drag Enys, two more and Ross comes last (our hero always comes last). As he looks in Drake’s eye, Ross sees the child Demelza’s face he brought up running from him up a tree one afternoon.

They almost don’t make it several times, especially once they get into the boat, for they must wait not just for the tide but for emptiness and other currents to go in the right direction.

Within the limits of later 1970s TV technology and money, the film series did this whole sequence brilliantly. They couldn’t resist adding the implausible near killing of Ross by a firing squad and last-minute rescue. Graham doesn’t descend to that: Ross isn’t important enough, but I admit it was that sequence I wrote about on ECW and put stills on its groupsite page. I thought Ellis did those moments, especially the one facing death impeccably well, with real gravitas.

The man next to Ross is murdered

I can’t take my reader through the sequence phase by phase only urge others to read Graham. I can quote some of the lines. There’s one I can’t find where Ross thinks to himself George Warleggan would never do such a stunt, and it is a stunt. And Enys is near death and what if he had been shot too. Why risk so much for this one man? It’s not really quite for Enys Ross did it of course; Enys is his excuse.

Drake says more than once: “I don’t mind … At least t’as taken my thoughts away …” “It don’t mind .. It has taken me away from what I left behind” (Morwenna taken from him, perhaps married off to this other man, p 437)

Ross to De Sombreuil, the French counterrevolutionary leader who invites Ross if he survives to visit his home where De Sombreuil will offer him “better wine than anything you have tasted here!” ..” Ross thinks as De Sombreuil describes his home and family “It is what I have been doing … but at the same I have left it” (at one point he wonders if “they” are taking in the hay back home “safely” yet, p 435)

“he wondered if he were leading these seven cheerful Cornishmen to their death” (p. 453)

“That part of his character [Ross’s] which made him so critical of authority also worked against himself. The same faculty which questioned the rightness of the law and the lawmakers was sharp to keep his own actions under a similar scrutiny … ” (p 544)

Finding the skeleton Enys (7 stone) “We want you” and pulling him out from the bodies (p 465)

We are to think some of this is Ross’s being in love with Caroline too now – they kissed intensely on the lips when he bid adieu to her.

They do pick up Armitage and the other English man they encountered in the prison on their way to the boat; these two English speaking men escaped in the melee and headed for the coast for a boat as both are Cornish.

Ross’s dream of himself explaining to Demelza who turns into Caroline as he brings home Enys on a stretcher to die (p. 495)


Demelza (Anharad Rees) just as Ross left for France

Book Three, Chapters 11 to close: another moving, cyclical ending

The four previous novels all ended with Ross and Demelza alone together, the first one falling asleep in one another’s arms, the second sitting by a window trying to adjust to the death of Julia, the third, him going into the house to her, and the fourth their not quite being able to overcome a serious estrangement but getting there (it seems).

The pattern breaks here: this novel ends with the dissolution of Aunt Agatha, with her death. We are with her in her last moments as her minds drifts off and out. The last chapter contains George’s vindictive visit to her bed to tell her there will be no hundredth birthday party because when he attended the wedding of Morwenna to Whitworth (ah!) he looked at the church register which went back a century and one half; what he saw there made him return to the family bibles at Trenwith and discover that Agatha is but 98. He has cancelled everything. How he sneers and triumphs. She is striken and doesn’t know whether to beg, plead, screetch or pretend not to care when she sees he is serious. This after Elizabeth had seemed to go along with all her preparations, bought the dress, provided the jewels, the invite, the menu. She says Elizabeth will not allow it; he says Elizabeth can do nothing as he is master in this house. The old woman is devastated because she will not live so long. The contrast with Ross who visited her weekly, was kind and got the roomed cleaned is stark and we are to recall if, for it’s then she turns and tells him in a way he find convincing his Valentine was a full term baby. His reaction in his face is such, she knows she hit him, but she doesn’t herself suspect Ross or any particular person, but rather asks insinuatingly if he and Elizabeth had it off before marriage “Or maybe someone else was riding she afore ever you was wed! Eh? Your precious Valentine.” He slams the door going out and all we hear is the twitter of the bird, the soft fall of the curtains. On the last page her mind wanders and she hopes she has not done anything to injure Elizabeth.

I wonder why. What is conspicuous to me in these last chapters is how Elizabeth does nothing to prevent cruel and ugly harm, to interpose herself for Agatha — or importantly Morwenna. For the even that matters just before Agatha’s death is a chilling scene between Whitworth and Morwenna on their wedding night. When she tries for more time, he rushes at her, hits her and rapes her.
The film series they presented him raping her after the birth of her baby when she had just had this terrible physical ordeal of tearing and exhaustion (I no longer remember if the baby was born dead). Graham from the get-go describe this man’s sexual behavior as rape.

We find out about the marriage when Ross returns home from spending time at Verity’s with Enys and Drake. He took all to Verity upon reaching the shore. He turned to her. Then Caroline arrives and while blanching at the skeletal shattered Enys she takes him home with her, scoffing at the idea she should worry because there will be time before they can marry. Good warm feeling between them is matched by Ross’s awakened appreciation of Drake, his brother-in-law who Ross now wants to help set up in some business (Sam has enough with his mining and religion) and encourages Drake to look forward by telling him (as Ross believed) that Morwenna was sent home and perhaps they could get together yet. Then he finally rides back to see his wife and Jeremy running out to him. In the moments after he confides his liking for Drake and hope for him, only to be told immediately that Morwenna and Whitworth were married a week ago (p. 515)

The story is then told as a sort of flashback. George had changed his mind. He never sent Whitworth the letter telling Whitworth Morwenna was damaged goods worse yet, Elizabeth did not send the letter by Morwenna to her mother (6 pages) explaining her reasons for refusing.

This is utter betrayal.

Intense continual pressure was put on Morwenna by everyone, more softly from her mother but what they did was simply start the arrangements, and go about teh business as if she agreed. A scene with Whitworth shows him that she is intensely reluctant and we feel how “he hated that, feels “contempt” for her having no fancy bridal outfit, and while he talks of how she will learn to love him (taking the role of the mature man teaching) Graham gives us a feel of this cold resentful appetitive mind .Her “pleases” to people get her nowhere.

It all rings so true, and here is her wedding night:

All day he had been jolly, but it was as if his jollity were put on to hide his true feelings not to express them. Several times he rose from the table during supper to kiss her hand and once he kissed her neck, but a shrinking movement, however nearly con­trolled, prevented him from doing that again. But all the time his eyes were heavy on her. She looked for love in them but saw only lust, and-a small measure of resentmenL It was as if she had only just failed to escape him and he still bore a grudge against her for having tried.
So supper ended, and in a panic she complained or sickness after the ride and asked if tonight she might go early to bed. But the time of waiting, the time of delay was over; he had already waited too long. So he followed her up the stairs and into the bedroom smelling of old wood and new paint and there, after a few perfunctory caresses. he began carefully to undress her, discovering and remov­ing each garment with the greatest of interest. Once she ­resisted and once he hit her, but after that she made no protest. So eventually he laid her naked on the bed, where she curled up like a frightened snail.
Then he knelt at the side of the”bed and said a short prayer before he got up and began to tickle her bare feet’ before he raped her. (p. 532)

Then follows George’s trip to Aunt Agatha’s room. Yes interwoven in this chapter are a series of brief vignettes of contentment: Ross and Demelza and children out on their lawn, Caroline helping Enys ride again, Whitworth arguing in a loud voice about his tithes, Morwenna herself though with the chunky stepchild in her hand looking at the mud thinking how she wished she could sink into it and never arise again, Drake getting better, eating enormously, thinking how the future may yet hold good work for him and Morwenna too (so as yet unaware); and then George with the poison now in him: he had thought to give the woman he looked at as a viper a mortal wound (and he had, by forbidding this birthday party) but not before she had bitten him and we are told he does not yet know the extent this poison will spread.

George (Ralph Bates) forbidding Agatha (Eileeny Wray) her party

The book opened with George’s nastiness to Agatha and the birth of Valentine (said to be unexpected, said to be the result of a fall or stumble Elizabeth said) under a black moon. It’s not that Elizabeth is the hole at the center of this book; rather it’s that she’s a nothing, shows us the banality of evil. And yet we have flickerings in Ross’s mind about how he should be appreciating Demelza which tell us he has not quite yet learned enough.


See also Ross Poldark, Demelza, and Jeremy Poldark.

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