We’ve Come a Long Way

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At a presentation on writing Historical Fiction at my library, the speaker talked about Scold’s Bridles. In the 16th and 17th centuries women who were guilty of nagging their husbands, spreading malicious gossip and challenging the clergy could be punished by having to wear a scold’s bridle. The idea was to humiliate. Some bridles had little spokes that actually cut into the face or head. These were popular in Scotland.

Note: There were also humiliating punishments for men who were cuckolded. While both punishments seem cruel and unusual, punishing a man who’s wife had an affair seems even more unjust. The thinking seems to have been that scolds and cuckolds were unnatural.

For more see: Lancaster Castle, Scold’s Bridle

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Poldark Returns!

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Drama lovers, history buffs and anglophiles, Poldark has returned to Sunday nights for its third season. Sunday brought what in the UK would be episode 3, but here is episode 2. Demelza and Ross are still in love, but Ross’ headstrong ways still make life hard for Demelza. I’m glad to see she’s got the strength to carry on no matter how obstinate Ross gets. And I’m thankful that at least occasionally, Ross tells her that he’s over Elizabeth and praises Demelza as she’s due.

George Warleggan has grown more prosperous and more pompous as he now is a Justice of the Peace. Woe, to the poor person brought before his court. Unless you’re rich, you don’t stand a chance at justice.

Elizabeth has had a new child, Valentine, whom George believes is his, but Elizabeth knows is Ross’ from another instance of Ross’ foolishness at the end of last season. Elizabeth staged a premature birth by pretending to fall down a staircase. At first she doesn’t want to bond with the baby, but as she comes to align herself more with George  she also accepts Valentine.

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Drake, Morwenna, and Sam

We’ve got a few new characters already. Elizabeth’s young cousin Morwenna is brought to the house to mind Geoffrey Charles, who’s probably about 10 and has gotten quite perceptive and witty in a way George doesn’t appreciate. If George has his way Geoffrey will soon be off to boarding school.

Also after Demelza’s father dies, her two brothers Sam and Drake come to town. Drake soon develops feelings for Morwenna, who at first is tentative because Drake is clearly low born. Sam’s a very pious Methodist and that causes trouble. George insists that Sam and his followers are kicked out of the nearby church. How Christian of you, George! Soon Demelza finds an unused farm building and since Ross is away lets Sam use it for his church.

Where is Ross? He’s gone to France to look for Dwight who’s ship has been captured or lost, no one knows at first. France is in the throws of Jacobin violence. As Caroline and Dwight eloped as her uncle lay on his death bed, Caroline is, of course, beside herself with worry all the while worrying about her love. Rightly so, as in France, they’re killing first and asking questions . . . well, never.

The drama has been true to the original book series and offers romance and drama with complex characters and exquisite scenery and costumes. I do miss Jud’s whinging ways, but with three new characters and more to come, I understand.

 

 

 

 

 

Poldark, Book Review

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After enjoying the Masterpiece 2015 version of Winston Graham’s Poldark, I read the book. Set in the late 18th century, Poldark is the first novel in the series about the Poldark family. It’s a family with some interesting facets. The side headed by Charles Poldark is quite refined and wealthy. The side headed by Joshua Poldark, Charles brother was less fortunate. Joshua had two sons and one died as a child. His wife died young. His son Ross, who’s the central character in this novel, got into gambling trouble and was urged to fight in the American colonies to let matters at home cool. Joshua didn’t have great success with his mining or farming interests and dies before he can see his son Ross return from the war.

Ross’ death becomes a rumor that takes hold in Cornwall. His true love believes it and winds up engaged to his cousin. His family’s drunk and disorderly servants believe it and they let the property fall to almost ruin. This book covers about half the events that you see in season one of the 2015 television series.

I read historical fiction for the details and surprises. Winston Graham’s clearly done his homework on life in Cornwall in 1873 and following. The dialect sounds accurate and every event and encounter, whether it’s a day at the market or a fishing trip rings true. It’s an era where people had a lot of spirit and vitality. (I’m starting to think the human race lost a lot by not riding horses. I think horseback riding made people stronger, physically and emotionally.)

Ross intrigues as he’s a bridge between classes. He understands his periwigged relatives as well as the villagers who scrape by and have no standing in a court of law where the scales are tilted in favor of the gentry. Even though Ross has little money, his rank puts him far above the villagers, yet as Demelza, the urchin girl he saves from her drunken abusive father, points out Ross can fit in either social circle.

In the book, readers get more of Graham’s well drawn characters, like Demelza who becomes the spirit of Ross’ home, Prudie and Jud, who curse and complain at every turn, Elizabeth, Ross’ former love and Francis, his cousin. At the start of the book Demelza’s 14 and then the story jumps ahead to when she’s 17, which I’d have liked to see.

This gap between the rich and the really rich intrigues and I’m trying to figure out how these families trained their servants so that in a few generations they no longer spit, cursed and drank way too much.

The story moves along quickly and includes some events I wish the 2015 series had. I’m ready to start on the second novel Demelza once I finish my other books.

*In the 1970s the BBC produced the first Poldark series.

Poem of the Week

To Daffodils

by Robert Herrick
Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain’d his noon.
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the even-song;
And, having pray’d together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
We die
As your hours do, and dry
Away,
Like to the summer’s rain;
Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,
Ne’er to be found again.

Boston College has put together an outstanding digital library for scholars and curious Sinophiles consisting of information on Jesuits in China from the 15th century to the 18th. Beyond Ricci contains slide shows and background information to acquaint readers with the knowledge, key people and their perceptions of the places they experienced in China and Thibet (sic).

To dig deeper you can view, scans of the actual rare book collection. They have atlases, narratives, history books and technical books, which you can view in a variety of options. The text can be searched but as the site points out the searches aren’t perfect since the project lacked the fortune it would cost to code every word so that the old S’s read as S’s rather than F’s and such.

Downton Abbey Background, Part 3

So I’ve explained how these families like the Crawly’s amassed huge estates, but how did English estates come to look as they do? Barbara Geiger enlightened us on this question as well.

Wealthy young English men of the 17th and  begin to cap their education with a trip abroad. Often these classically educated men would spend time in Europe and value paintings of Greek pastorals with beautiful expanses of land dotted with sheep and enclosed at the horizon with a line of trees.

By Thomas Cole

Sometimes a nymph, probably naked would show up.

By John Reinhard Weguein

Geiger mentioned Claude Lorrain as an influential painter.

By Claude Lorraine – Note the Classical Greek structures

These sons would return home and want to recreate the images in these paintings.  In addition the price of English wool goes up so bring in the sheep.

Lancelot “Capability” Brown was a famous landscape architect who

Glamis Castle, designed by Lancelot Capability Brown

Blenheim Place designed by Capability Brown

This doesn’t seem so deep, but they aren’t crossing

Sense & Sensibility

Thanks to Sheila being on the ball I got to see Sense and Sensibility at the Northlight Theater in Skokie. I’d never been to this theater and was impressed by the building. Yep, it’s a good professional level theater in the suburbs.

As for the play, it was a faithful adaptation with good acting, especially by the actors who played Marianne, Elinor and the mother Mrs. Henry Dashwood. The woman next to me kept saying that it was like watching paint dry. Far from it. I don’t think she appreciated the language, wit or era in which the story takes place. I found all delightful.

Now there were a few problems, but they were minor. There was no actress cast as Margaret and rather than just writing her out, they kept using exposition to explain where she was and she was always off stage involved in mischief. That just didn’t work. I liked the simple staging, but they were inconsistent about where the one door led to. Sometimes it led outside and sometimes it led to another part of a house.

I did wish that the teens in front of us had not used their cell phones to text each other during the play. They had no idea that people behind them could see the glow of the cells.

Still it was a good performance of a classic story.