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Elizabeth’s Secret, George’s Paranoia

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Demelza and Hugh

Poldark, Season 3, Episode 8

What a season we’ve had. This week George grew more and more suspicious of Elizabeth. He refused to have anything to do with baby Valentine. He interrogated Dwight about the differences between 8 month old premies and full term 9 month olds. Dwight stayed true to his ethics and kept mum not playing into George’s hands.

Inadvertently, Ross irked George in one of their exchanges he mentioned “blood.” Ross is clueless about Valentines paternity, but later found out that most likely he’s the father. When he met Elizabeth, by chance, in the church she filled him in and they deduced that Aunt Agatha’s death was tied to George’s curiosity. This storyline shows tight, Aristotelian writing. What could be a more perfect problem for George than Ross being Valentine’s father? Nothing.

George is focusing on his political career. Angry with Elizabeth, he intends to spend most of his time in London at Parliament. This just reminds us all how much better it would be for everyone if Ross had stepped into politics. George has reduced the wages for miners by 30%. Imagine how you’d get by if your salary went down 30%. George sure is loathsome.

Hugh Armitage, who’s new this season, is sweet on Demelza. He’s sending her portraits and poetry, while Ross takes her for granted and is back to dreaming about Elizabeth. To her great credit, Demelza really wants to stay true to Ross. Boy, does he make that hard as he is so ho hum about his beautiful, kind, strong wife.

Poor Morwenna gave birth to a son. Yet Osborne, a despicable vicar, despite Dwight, her doctor’s instruction, continues to demand his clumsy, painful conjugal rights. Luckily, Elizabeth spoke to Osborne, who ignored her. The race for most selfish devil is neck and neck between George and Rev. Osborne.

Rowenna, Morwenna’s young subtly flirtatious sister, is enticing Osborne by undressing and bathing in front of a peep hole that I think she’s aware of. She makes a point of mentioning that she’s going to take a bath or that she’s got a problem with her toes. She’s well aware of Osborne’s foot fetish. I’ve seen the 1970s production so I know what’s coming, I’m just not sure when or how. Will Osborne get his comeuppance next week? I hope so, but it may take awhile.

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A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

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Engrossing and authentic, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins is set in 17th century England. It’s historical fiction mixed with mystery.

Lucy Campion begins as a chambermaid for the Hargrave family. The head of the family is a magistrate who takes his duties seriously and treats one and all justly (so he’s a far cry from Poldark’s George Warleggan).

When the lady’s maid, Lucy’s friend the teasing, lively Bessie disappears she’s soon found murdered. She had run off with the family silver in the middle of the night. Rumor had it that she went to meet a lover. She was sweet on Lucy’s brother Will and he’s accused of her murder, but it seems he’s been the victim of rumors and gossip in an era before the press had to fact check. In fact, most people got their news from sensationalized broadsheets sold for a penny. Lies could easily gain credence and be given ad testimony.

Will was Bessie’s beau, but she also was spending time with a libertine portrait artist who makes Lucy’s skin crawl. Lucy isn’t the typical rebel but she will defy social conventions to visit her brother at Newgate prison or to gather some evidence on the murder that took place at the same spot.

At an event at my public library, author and historian Susanna Calkins spoke of being intrigued by murder ballads that people in this era would sing, or buy and paste on their homes as decorations. These ballads inspired this fascinating story, that weaves historical detail throughout in a natural way.

In addition to murder the story features a touch of romance, which added a nice contrast to gruesome murder.

I learned a lot about life and history circa 1665. I didn’t know there was a plague that year, or that at a trial the accused, not the lawyer did all the interrogation. They took “face your accuser” very seriously. I didn’t know that warm potatoes were put in someone’s bed to keep it warm. There’s a whole lot more, but I suppose you should read the book to learn for yourself.

This story would be great on Masterpiece Theater. It’s a lively read and I found the characters well developed and engaging. I want to read more of Calkins’ work.My one quibble is the ending. Towards the end, when we discover who murdered all these servant girls, the murderer gives a long-winded monologue (well a couple questions were sprinkled in). I just didn’t buy that he’d elaborate in such detail.

Poem of the Week

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Amoretti I: Happy ye leaves when as those lilly hands

by Edmund Spenser

Happy ye leaves when as those lilly hands,
Which hold my life in their dead doing might
Shall handle you and hold in loves soft bands,
Lyke captives trembling at the victors sight.
And happy lines, on which with starry light,
Those lamping eyes will deigne sometimes to look
And reade the sorrowes of my dying spright,
Written with teares in harts close bleeding book.
And happy rymes bath’d in the sacred brooke,
Of Helicon whence she derived is,
When ye behold that Angels blessed looke,
My soules long lacked foode, my heavens blis.
Leaves, lines, and rymes, seeke her to please alone,
Whom if ye please, I care for other none.

Pygmalion

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I was skeptical about Pygmalion (1938) starring Leslie Howard, whom I only knew as Ashley in Gone with the Wind. Boy, was I wrong. This film is every bit as good as My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

Faithful to the George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion shows us how the arrogant Professor Higgins takes on the bet to transform Eliza Doolittle, played by Helen Hill, a poor flower girl with bad English into a socialite. The film moves briskly and the performances were top notch. It should be seen and discussed by every do-gooder as it’s easy to take on a person’s problems without giving thought to what’s to become of the person after they’re transformed.

The only flaw in the story, which is well acted with witty dialog, is the ending for poor Eliza, the flower girl. In the end she does wind up with Higgins, but he hasn’t been transformed. Isn’t there someone more kind and thoughtful for the sincere, kind Eliza? Mr. Shaw, what were you thinking?

Fr. Laurence, Why?

For my online book club we read Romeo and Juliet, which my students are now reading as well. Once I get to Act 4, I want to just ask Friar Laurence why on earth he thought this plan with Juliet taking a sleeping drug would work. Why not tell her parents, Friar? Since she’s already consummated her marriage to Romeo, wouldn’t the Capulets and the Montagues have to make the best of things?

The Friar even tells Paris he doesn’t like the hasty marriage to Juliet. That’s a great start. Just tell the truth or if he’s such a coward, tell the parents they have to wait a certain amount of time after Tybalt’s death to marry. Then have them tell the truth. One of them would get the courage to.

I realize Shakespeare took the story from another source, a poem by Arthur Brooke and he saw that it had a lot of powerful elements, but there are some glaring mistakes in the plot.

Poem of the Week

To Jane: The Keen Stars Were Twinkling

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The keen stars were twinkling,
And the fair moon was rising along them
Dear Jane!
The guitar was tinkling,
But the notes were not sweet till you sung them
Again.
As the moon’s soft splendour
O’ er the faint cold starlight of Heaven
Is thrown,
So your voice most tender
To the strings without soul had then given
Its own.
The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleep a full hour later,
Tonight;
No leaf will be shaken
Whilst the dews of your melody scatter
Delight.
Though the sound overpowers,
Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours,
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

Poem of the Week

My Mistress’Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun, Sonnet 130

William Shakespeare

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Poem of the Week

Now Winter Nights

By Thomas Campion

Now winter nights enlarge
The number of their hours;
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups o’erflow with wine,
Let well-turned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights
Sleep’s leaden spells remove.

This time doth well dispense
With lovers’ long discourse;
Much speech hath some defense,
Though beauty no remorse.
All do not all things well;
Some measures comely tread,
Some knotted riddles tell,
Some poems smoothly read.
The summer hath his joys,
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,
They shorten tedious nights.

Poem of the Week

Nothing Is Lost

by Noel Coward

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.

The Quiet American

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“I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.”

I really loved Graham Greene’s The Quiet American even though the tone and the main character so differed from favorites like Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet or Gaskell’s Margaret Hale or any 19th century novel that I treasure.

Yes, the two world wars left a stamp of jaundice and cynicism on Europe and Greene shows that (in many of his works). Yet I think he’s insightful and observant. Somehow while the main character Fowler, cynical, selfish and tapped out, earned my sympathy because he was honest with himself. I guess the similar sorts I’ve run across aren’t.

I like how Greene plays Fowler’s cynicism off Pyle’s (the chatty, “Quiet” American) innocence. By connecting them through Phuong, Fowler’s mistress whom Pyle falls for and takes. Through Phuong we see the the West’s involvement in Southeast Asia. Pyle sincerely and innocently loves her. He deals with Fowler, who offers Phuong so little. She’s like a servant and whose job could end whenever he’s called back.

Fowler lies to her, has cheated on his wife and while I didn’t like or respect him, he was the most perceptive observer in the book. He saw how flimsy and immature Pyle’s views on democracy, world affairs and Vietnam were. He also is fully aware of the selfishness of his relationship with her, but does nothing for her. While Pyle offered Phuong marriage, love and respect as well as future prosperity, his simplistic ideas about politics led to many deaths including his own. Insulated from reality by his optimism and blind trust in a handful of books, Pyle epitomized the idea that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

Throughout the story Phuong is distant and opaque throughout the book. Other than her penchant for buying scarves, we know so little of what Phuong really thinks. Pyle and Folwer probably didn’t know her all that well either. Phuong never complains to her sister or anyone about her life direction. She’s willing to forego decision-making and leave that to her sister or Pyle or Fowler.

What engaged me most was Greene’s style and the complexity of characters and plot. I didn’t know anything about Vietnam in the 1950s and this book made me appreciate that history more.

A few favorite quotations

“So it always is: when you escape to a desert, the silence shouts in your ear.”

“Suffering is not increased by numbers. One body can contain all the suffering the world can feel.”

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