Inquiring readers, Every once in a while a writer from another website contributes an article that is custom made for this blog. Jennifer Vishnevsky, a writer for TopDentists.com, writes about false teeth and dentistry in an era when anesthetics were not yet available.
Pierre Fauchard. Image @Wikimedia
The 18th Century was a major time for advances in dentistry. It is believed that the French physician Pierre Fauchard started dentistry science as we know it today. In 1723, Fauchard published “The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth.” His book was the first to describe a comprehensive system for caring and treating the teeth. Thus, he is considered the father of modern dentistry. Fauchard was responsible for many developments, including the introduction of dental fillings and the use of dental prosthesis.
In 1760, John Baker, the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America, emigrated from England and set up practice. In the same decade, Paul Revere placed advertisements in a Boston newspaper offering his services as a dentist.
This print is by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and is dated 1787. It is a satirical comment upon the real practice of rich gentlemen and ladies of the 18th century paying for teeth to be pulled from poor children and transplanted in their gums. Image @Children and Youth in History
In 1790, the first dental foot engine was built by John Greenwood, son of Isaac Greenwood and one of George Washington’s dentists. It was made from an adapted foot-powered spinning wheel. This was also the year that the first specialized dental chair was invented by Josiah Flagg, who made a wooden Windsor chair with a headrest attached.
Even those treated by the best dentists were in for an agonizing time. “A Treatise on the Deformities and Disorders of the Teeth and Gums” was written in 1770 by Thomas Berdmore, who was considered to be an outstanding dentist in England. “Pass gold wire from the neighbouring teeth on either side, in such a manner as to press upon what stands out of the line.” The alternative, Berdmore suggested, was to ‘break the teeth into order by means of a strong pair of crooked pliers.”
Fauchard, procedure for teeth restoration. Image @Wikimedia
For those who could afford it, the European diet grew sweeter during the 18th Century as the use of sugar became more widespread. This exposure to sugar meant more instances of tooth decay. These dietary changes were a major factor in the development of dentures. Dentists began to experiment with ivory in order to create a better foundation for dentures. Due to advances in technology, dentists could also add gold springs and plates to the new dentures. False teeth were a novelty that was mostly unheard of in earlier centuries. Previously, problematic teeth were pulled but almost never replaced. Ivory dentures were popular in the 1700s, made from natural materials including walrus, elephant, or hippopotamus. For the wealthy, human teeth were high in demand as the preferred material for the creation of dentures. However, the teeth used in 18th Century dentures eventually rotted. There was a high demand for teeth that were deemed healthy, such as from criminals.
George Washington’s dentures. Image @Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, Baltimore
One of the most famous early denture wearers was the first U.S. President George Washington. Washington began losing his teeth in his 20s, probably due to a combination of frequent illness and treatment with a medication called calomel that damaged the enamel of the teeth. Contrary to popular belief, however, Washington’s dentures were not made of wood. Washington sported some of the highest quality false teeth of the time, consisting of a denture plate made of carved hippopotamus ivory into which human teeth (along with parts of both horse and donkey teeth) were fitted. He had several other pairs of dentures during his presidency, none of which included wood in their construction.
A French Dentist Showing a Specimen of His Artificial Teeth and His False Palates, Thomas Rowlandson, 1811. Image @The Independent
18th century porcelain dentures Image @CBBC
Full or even partial dentures were properly developed only during the course of the 18th Century. Dentists became better at making them fit, coming up with stronger adhesives to keep the teeth attached to them and designing them so as to prevent them from flying out of their patients’ mouths. By the late 18th century, there were yet more developments. Around 1774, Alexis Duchâteau crafted the first porcelain dentures. But these were prone to chip and also tended to appear too white to be convincing. Porcelain shaped teeth were placed onto gold plates. These were the first dentures that look similar to modern dentures. They were very white in color, but could be made in different shades.
Guest contributor Jennifer Vishnevsky is a writer for TopDentists.com, an Everyday Health website on dental health, as well as a freelancer for other lifestyle media sites.
Downton Abbey lovers, it is important that you NOT continue to read this post if you have not seen Episode Four of Season 3. PBS is streaming each episode one day after it airs at this link. Do watch it and then come back to share your thoughts.
As many of you know, a major character is killed off during this season (perhaps more). It’s been all over the Internet for months. In fact, some headlines in the U.K. have totally spoiled the surprise for some U.S. viewers. Fear not. For the first time in the 3rd season the writing is up to snuff. While some of us already know who has died, the writers have managed to create scenes that stir us, make us laugh, or promote the plot. More importantly, we are able to react with disbelief, grieve alongside friends and family, and still be stunned by our reactions.
Why did the writers kill off such a popular character? Downton Abbey has made the cast uber famous. Who can fault the younger ones from jumping ship to what seems to be a more promising land for their careers? Us! For we oldsters know this is a big mistake 90% of the time.
Actors are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. Some who stay with a successful series are never able to rise above their stereotypical roles and quietly drop out of sight after their run is over. The same fate happens to most actors who drop out prematurely. Only a lucky few manage to carve a solid career for themselves.
Take Dame Maggie Smith, for example. While hanging onto her meaty role as Violet, she’s performed in the following films during the same time period: Nanny McPhee Returns, Gnomeo & Juliet, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Quartet. Maggie, who’s no spring chicken, dug deep inside herself, found a few extra hours in the day, and decided to go for the gusto, staying with Downton while accepting other film projects. (Take that, Leonardo Di Caprio. That poor tired old/young soul is takinga break after making 3 films in 2 years.) Dame Maggie could show him a thing or two. She has proven her acting chops, which is where she has a leg up on the young’uns.
It is no secret that offers are raining down upon some of the more popular Downton actors. Godbless’em for being tempted and providing the writers with marvelous ways to “Auf” them, but all I can say is “Sayonara, darlings. You’re not doing yourselves or your careers a favor.” To make my point, visit IMBD to see the projects for which our much lamented expired cast member left Downton.
Now that I’ve had my rant, on with reviewing the show!
The Battle of the Physicians – or a standoff at the Downton corral
It all started normally, with Dr Clarkson assuring the family that Sybil is a healthy young woman going through normal childbirth.
The earl solicits a “society doctor”, Sir Phillip, to oversee the birth of Sybil’s child, explaining to Cora: “We can’t risk her welfare to soothe Clarkson’s feelings. I like the old boy, but he did misdiagnose Matthew and he did miss the warning signs with Lavinia.”
When Dr. Clarkson notices Sybil’s alarmingly thick ankles and muddled mind, Sir Phillip puffs out his substantial chest. “You are upsetting these people for no reason at all!” and warns Clarkson off, telling him not to interfere with doctoring or his much superior social skills in schmoozing with the ladies at the dinner table. We know Sir Phillip is not too swift for 1) He probably received a second-rate education in a first-rate institution simply because he’s upper class, and 2) He disses our pretty Sybil by accusing her of having fat ankles in the first place, which back in those days was considered a major physical defect. Had I been Papa Crawley, I would have decked Sir Phillip.
But Clarkson won’t be put off: “I think she may be toxemic with a danger of eclampsia, in which case we must act FAST!”
Gasps all around. By now the viewers are reaching for their medical dictionaries (click here for explanation of the condition).
Two factions emerge: On one side is the Cora/Clarkson contingent, on the other side the Robert/Phillips naysayers. Clarkson continues his portents of doom, despite Sir Phillip casting dagger eyes at him: “Her baby is small, she’s confused, and there’s far too much albumen in her urine.”
This is TMI for Robert, who reminds Clarkson that the Crawley matriarch is in the room listening.
Violet, godblessher, retorts, “Peace! A woman my age can face reality far better than most men.”
Continuing with his gloom and doom predictions, Clarkson warns that an immediate delivery is Sybil’s only chance. He urges the chauffeur to hie his wife off to a hospital, where they may yet save Sybil and the baby and deliver it by Caesarian.
Sir Phillip puffs up his chest again and declares that a caesarian will be surely kill Sybil and ruin her flat tummy for life. All eyes turn to Clarkson, who reluctantly agrees that as things stand, a caesarian might just do Sybil in.
“Honesty at last,” intones Robert in his best Yul Brynner as Rameses voice. I will NOT put Sybil at risk. I am the master of Downton Abbey and my decision (even though I co-own the place with Matthew) shall stand. So let it be written, so let it be done!
“The decision lies with the chauffeur”, Violet says sensibly, cutting through the bullshit with a rapier voice.
Branson is summoned. Poor man. All he can hear is If… If…If… If… If… If. He looks this-away way, he looks that-away and … stands paralyzed like a pillar of salt.
Meanwhile, what of the lovely Sybil, she of the slim ankles now thickened? We begin to understand why Jessica Brown Findlay’s role was so minor in the first 3 episodes, for the viewer is starting to realize that she is doomed – that it is Sybil, the most popular and most beloved sister, who is about to DIE. But is she?
Back to the cozy little post-labor scene: Jessica Brown Findlay has all of two lines, which was more than she’d been given all season.
She then nuzzles into her sheets, ready for rest, which leaves the viewers sighing with relief and thinking, “All is well. Someone else besides our beloved Sybil is going to die.”
Tick tock tick tock.
The denizens of Downton Abbey are fast asleep when Mary sounds the alarm. Wake up! Wake up. It’s Sybil!
Lady Sybil, we hardly knew ye.
And now it’s time to lay my tongue-in-cheek tone aside, for Sybil’s death bed scene was as splendid a bit of writing and acting as I have seen. Like you, I sat on the edge of my seat and cried. Every one, from a desperate Cora and Tom, to the disbelieving sisters, father and witnesses, to the resigned yet horrified face of Dr. Clarkson, tugged at my heart.
Sybil, convulsing and unable to breathe, dies swiftly, but the reactions of family members take longer to settle in.
The camera lingers on each face, all showing the same horror and disbelief that I felt.
Elizabetth McGovern could not have been more perfect as the grieving mother. Her last talk with Sybil “( my baby, you will always be my baby”), was heart breaking.
Even though I knew that Sybil would die in this episode, this scene with McGovern’s superb, restrained acting was a revelation. I could not watch it without crying a bucket of tears.
Sybil was the glue that held the three sisters together and now she is gone. The reality has set in for the two remaining sisters:
Mary: She was the only person living who thought that you and I were such nice people.
Edith: Oh, Mary. Do you think we might get along better in the future?
Mary: I doubt it. But since this is the last time that we will all be together in this life, let’s love each other now, as sisters should.
Thank you Julian Fellowes, for giving us back the Downton that we have come to love.
We are even given a foreshadowing of events to come when Cora has the earl sleep in his dressing room.
The next day, she can barely contain her civility, saying in a hasty, tight-lipped phrase:
“I must apologize to [Dr. Clarkson]. Because-if-we’d-listened-to-him,-she-might-still-be-alive.-But-Sir-Phillip-and-your-father-knew-better,-and-now-she-is-dead.”A devastated Cora cannot forgive Robert for his part in promoting Sir Phillip over Dr. Clarkson, and who can blame her?
While most of the hour concentrated on Sybil’s tragic end, there were other plot developments, believe it or not.
Lady Edith flexes her career muscles
Edith can’t win for trying. Arising early in the morning to join the men for breakfast, she happily discovers that she has been offered a regular once a week column in The Sketch to discuss problems faced by the modern woman. Wondering if she should use her name, Robert retorts that this is exactly what they want: her name and title. When Matthew rises to her defense, she says with resignation: “Don’t bother, Matthew, I’m always a failure in this family.”
Violet’s response at dinner is hardly better: “When may she expect an offer to appear on the London stage?” This prompts Edith to mouth – “See?” Yet we’re rooting for her. Let’s hope this sister gets her chance to prove herself and find her niche in the world, as middle children are often wont to do.
Ethel Cooks Badly for Isobel
Isobel finally has a meatier role to play, however minor, in which she tries to rehabilitate Ethel into a respectable servant.
Her good Samaritan gesture results in Mrs. Bird walking out the door and Isobel reaching for the pepto bismol any time Ethel serves up one of her culinary disasters.
Daisy, likes Alfred, who is O’Brien’s nephew. He likes Ivy, the new kitchen maid, which prompts Daisy to behave super bossy towards her, which sinks her in Alfred’s eyes. Ivy likes Jimmy, or James, the wannabee footman, which gives Alfred a hang dog look and prompts him to help Ivy out of kitchen scrapes. Sound complicated? Yeah, well, this story line is like watching puppies tussle. Cute at first and then a little boring.
Thomas is falling into O’Brien’s trap …
O’Brien’s jealousy of Jimmy and hatred of Thomas sets her in motion to do both of them in. When it looks as if Jimmy and Alfred will have to vie for first footman, O’Brien sets a trap for him. “Want to wind the clocks? You’d better ask Mr. Barrow,” she advises the gullible young man. And so he does. Thomas is only too happy to oblige and explicitly sets out to teach James a new skill.
After his lesson, O’Brien attempts to pry some details from a reluctant Jimmy. “What are you implying?” she prompts, “Nothing unseemly I hope?”
“No, nothing like that,” he mutters before scurrying away. Our last glimpse of O’Brien has her wearing a Chesire cat smile and rehearsing the next bad thing for Thomas.
This concludes my review of Episode Four. I am so over Bates’s predicament and Mary’s non-chemistry with Matthew, that I am happily skipping over their story lines.
What did you think of this week’s DA and Sybil’s death? Please, no plot spoilers on future developments.
Gentle readers, this year marks the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. This blog will feature a variety of posts about the novel and on its author, Jane Austen. Frequent contributor, Tony Grant (London Calling) recently visited the National Portrait Gallery in London and viewed the small watercolour portrait of her painted by Cassandra Austen. In this tribute, Tony demonstrates her star status among other literary superstars.
If you enter the National Portrait Gallery as you walk into the main atrium go up the tall escalator on the left and you come to a foyer area at the top off which there are entrances into two main galleries. On the right is the wonderful gallery displaying the powerfully evocative Tudor monarchs and their statesmen.
On the left are the 18th and 19th century galleries portraying the politicians, monarchs, reformers and writers of that period. It is here , many of you will know, is the tiny portrait of Jane Austen attributed to her sister Cassandra and drawn in 1810 using pencil and watercolours. It is an unprepossessing little picture. It’s great worth is in who it is. But, if you stand back from the plinth with the perspex box on its summit containing Jane and view the whole vista you will notice that Jane is surrounded by a halo of super star writers. She is the centre of the group.
Bottom left is Sir Walter Scott. Moving clockwise next comes Samuel Taylor Coleridge, at the top is John Keats and then as you move down right of Jane, Robert Southey follows and last, bottom right, is Robert Burns. Quite a group, and there she is in the middle, our Jane. If you think I am imagining the halo metaphor, walk behind the plinth with Jane displayed and you will notice that there is nothing on the wall, there is a space. The halo metaphor works. The only thing behind Jane is a handwritten catalogue number on the back of the portrait itself. It reads; “NPG 360, Jane Austen.” It’s written in pencil in a reasonably legible hand. A scrawled note such as somebody might write as a memo to themselves on a post it and stick on their fridge door.
All of these writers were geniuses and there is Jane right at their centre. The men were all Romantics. Jane perhaps ridiculed some aspects of Romanticism in Northanger Abbey but she wrote about romance and its vicissitudes. The men wrote about their emotional response to the world. Jane did not portray her own emotions, just the emotions of her characters.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) painted by Sir Edwin Landseer.
Chivalry!—why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection—the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant —Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword.” Ivanhoe
Many of Scott’s novels harked back to a supposed ideal period , the Middle Ages, when chivalry was the moral high ground for men and women fitted into the system as perfect idols worshipped by men. However this was for the aristocracy. Serfdom was really slavery. Serfs were possessions. Scott wrote in Ivanhoe and Quentin Durward and novels such as those about this ideal dreamlike world. It was the ultimate escapism. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) painted by Peter Van Dyke.
The western wave was all a-flame.
The day was well nigh done !
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the Sun.
It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a friend of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. They promoted Romanticism together which added a more emotional and personal response to the world in addition to the ways of thinking the Age of Enlightenment promoted.
John Keats (1795 – 1821) painted by Joseph Severn
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
John Keats died of tuberculosis in Rome in February 1821. Joseph Severn, the portrait artist was his best friend and was with him in Rome when he died. Keats was another Romantic poet. When he first started publishing his poetry he was heavily criticised in Blackwood’s Magazine. Those with invested interests in the status quo and couldn’t think imaginatively beyond what they knew, seemed hell-bent on preventing the human race from progressing. It was ever thus.
Robert Southey(1774 -1843) painted by Peter Van Dyke.
We pursued our way
To the house of mirth, and with that idle talk
That passes o’er the mind and is forgot,
We wore away the time. But it was eve
When homewardly I went, and in the air
Was that cool freshness, that discolouring shade
That makes the eye turn inward.”
Robert Southey was another of the Romantic poets. He lived in the lakes with Wordsworth and Coleridge and is generally known as one of the Lakeland poets. He is now considered a lesser poet than either Wordsworth or Coleridge. In 1813 he became the poet laureate and Byron lambasted him for this.
Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) painted by Alexander Nasmyth
We’ll gae down by Cluden side,
Thro’ the hazels spreading wide,
O’er the waves that sweetly glide
To the moon sae clearly.
Yonder Cluden’s silent towers,
Where at moonshine midnight hours,
O’er the dewy-bending flowers,
Fairies dance sae cheery.”
Robert Burns is a Scottish national hero. Websites dedicated to him use his name, his picture and his poems in an unashamedly mercenary way. He is probably the most marketed writer in this group and a real money spinner for the Scottish economy. He was actually a great poet it is sometimes worth stopping and remembering. What can be difficult for many readers is the Scottish dialect and use of colloquial phrases in his poems. His poetry is worth spending time with. They require deep emotional investment. They are rich with feelings and emotions. He was a romantic poet more by inclination than belief. It was just him, the way he was.
Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) painted by Cassandra Austen
The first line of Pride and Prejudice goes such:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune , must be in want of a wife.”
However, the last lines of the penultimate chapter of Pride and Prejudice are also worth considering and shed light on Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy in particular.
…….she looked forward with delight to the time they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.”
Inquiring readers: Chris Stewart from Embarking on a Course of Study, has been submitting posts to this blog for over two years. As we discussed Downton Abbey, we realized we had very similar views, including a snarky streak. Chris has graciously submitted her take of Episode 3, which is right on the money (in my book.) Enjoy!
Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 3: Not Enough Noses Out of Joint
This week, except for the copious use of the P word and the discussion of women’s right to vote, there was very little to learn here, both historically, or about the characters. I kept wanting “Downton Abbey 3-D.” Give me some glasses to put on so I could find the depth.
Anna and Mr. Bates: The Case of the Missing Letters
Carson hands out mail. No letters for Anna from Mr. Bates again. She’s worried. Cut to letters handed out at the prison. None for Mr. Bates. He looks upset too. So clearly someone is holding both their letters back at the prison. There’s a quick end to a possible source of tension for the hour.
Anna tells Mrs. Hughes about the letters. Is Mr. Bates being gallant and trying to set her free? Why else would he be silent and stop her from visiting? Whoa there! If this happened, we should have seen her go to the prison and be turned away. Much better than missing letters.
While at work, another prisoner whispers to Bates, “They know you tricked them.” Bates: “What that’s to do with me?” He thwarted their plan to pin something on him so they’re angry. I find the prison drama both too low-key and vague. Apparently, Bates was reported to the Governor for violence and is considered dangerous. This is why no letters and no visits. “Thank God, I thought she’d given up on me,” Bates says. “Don’t thank God until you know what else they’ve got in store for you,” his fellow prisoner warns. Ho hum. I admit, though, the look of relief and happiness on Bates’ face, got me. More of what we love Bates for, please!
Later, the guards enter his cell and search it, go through the bedding again. According to plan, Bates has hidden the object previously hidden in his bed, in his cell mate’s bed. They take the cell mate away. He tells Bates that he’ll be sorry. Cue ominous music.
Matthew and Mary, Still Married to the House
Mary and Matthew discuss Matthew’s role as co-owner of Downton. He doesn’t want to go into every detail of the running of the estate or challenge Robert’s authority. Mary says he has to pull his weight.
Matthew and Mary meet in nursery to look over wallpaper. Matthew asks if that’s all she wants to talk about. They are in the nursery after all. What about that trip to the doctor? Is she announcing she’s pregnant? No, she had trouble with her hay fever. Matthew leans close behind her and says suggestively, what will they use for a day nursery if the need arises? Mary looks very uncomfortable and says they can worry about that further down the line. Whoops! Did they not have the Kids Talk before marrying? Mary looks like the subject is distasteful to her.
More of Matthew being warm and loving with his wife, and more of Mary being a wet sock. Boy did marriage kill this love story.
Isobel visits Mrs. Hughes and gives her a letter from Ethel (um, when did this take place? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time we saw Ethel she closed the door in Isobel’s face). Isobel confirms Ethel is a prostitute. Mrs. Hughes is surprised. “That’s not a word you hear in this house every day.” No kidding. Even I felt uncomfortable at the use of the word in those hallowed halls. Isobel asks Mrs. Hughes to let her know if she can help. Mrs. H says Ethel will be too ashamed to face how far she’s fallen. I have to disagree. Ethel sees clearly how far and it’s given her a kind of grace and nobility that it’s a pleasure to watch. She’s certainly much more interesting than our beloved Anna of late. Dare I say Ethel is the new Anna? Someone needs to be since Anna’s going in circles.
Ethel asks Isobel to write to the Bryants. They can have Charlie. The Bryants come and meet Ethel at the Crawley house. They know what she is. It’s not difficult to find out about a woman like her. Mrs. Bryant says they can offer money to help. Mr. Bryant seems to bond with the boy. Ethel wants her son to have the opportunities Mr. Crawley had.
She says goodbye to Charlie, hugs and kisses him. Mr. Bryant carries him off to the car. Mrs. Bryant says she’ll write to her. Ethel’s reaction is heartbreaking. This story line was the best of the episode.
Robert and Matthew: The Bromance May be Over
Once Carson knows of the Robert-Matthew partnership, he gets to the point, asking if the staff can be brought back up to snuff? Matthew says the world is different now than before the war. Mr. Carson is immediately indignant and booms out, would Mr. Crawley like him to continue doing extra duties as a footman? Robert steps in and says Matthew didn’t mean it. Matthew looks chastised. I wouldn’t want to cross Carson either. When he lowers those impressive eyebrows at you, watch out.
Robert asks Matthew to help with estate accounts. Matthew does and tells Mary there are some issues. Rents are unpaid or too low. No maintenance scheme. Half the assets are unused or ignored entirely. Mary says a country estate isn’t a city business. She bristles and defends her father. True to stereotype. Sigh.
Matthew goes to the Dowager Countess for advice. How can he fix things without putting people’s noses out of joint? She says do what must be done but a great many noses will be out of joint.
Well, that was pointless. Maybe she’s hoping for some trouble to liven things up. I found her ambivalence annoying and confusing. She’s always been so particular about the estate and tradition, yet she doesn’t give Matthew a lecture or advice. Somebody took the zing out of the Dowager this week. I hope it’s found before next. Her comments were boring and repetitive.
Edith shows up at the breakfast table. Matthew remarks on it and she says she’s an unmarried woman so can’t have a lie in like her married sisters. She prefers to be up and about. Note how we’ve moved from ‘spinster’ to ‘unmarried woman’. Robert reads aloud from the paper that all American women will have the vote. Edith says it’s ridiculous that women don’t vote in England. Matthew suggests she write to the paper to give her opinion and she says she might. Robert seems alarmed at the prospect. We all know Edith will write a letter. And there’s Edith all sewn up now. No lingering ill effects from being dumped at the altar. She’s got a cause. That’s all a woman needs to completely forget about her broken heart and abject humiliation. Edith had her fifteen minutes last week, apparently, let’s move on.
Edith visits her grandmother and the Dowager Countess asks her how she is. Edith: “Being jilted at the altar, yes it is horrid, multiplied by about ten thousand million.” Actually, Edith, I give you a five on that scale in terms of how hurt you seem to be. Nowhere near ten thousand million, my dear.
Her grandmother tells her she has brains and ability and to “Stop whining and find something to do.” Wow. Ouch. Basically, “We saved you from the old guy. You’ve been enough of a bother. Get on with it.” Now, Edith hardly seems crushed over what happened. She’s back to her old self, but she didn’t deserve that. I wish Edith would go down to the village pub and get really drunk and dance on some tables, make out with someone in the street, and be brought home by the local constable. Yes, stiff upper lip and all that but, broken hearts have long-term effects. I’d love to see Edith go very, very wrong for a bit.
Edith does write to the newspaper about the vote. Robert says it won’t be published but it is. He’s horrified. Edith is pleased.
The New Footman and Dirty Looks from O’Brien
Jimmy Kent is hired as the new footman. I’d say he’s pretty, but not handsome.
When Carson tells Mary the maids want him to hire Jimmy, she says, “Do pick him and cheer us all up a bit. Alfred is nice but looks like a puppy rescued from a puddle. Tell the maids they can buy their valentines.”
This quip is so unlike Mary that it fell flat. Mary isn’t very humorous so it just doesn’t work for her. At dinner, when Jimmy, now called James, is introduced, Mary says, “Well done, Carson.” Felt a bit cougar-ish to me, Lady Mary. Maybe you could direct that sort of thing to your husband.
There’s some question/quibbling about who is first footman, Alfred or James. Carson takes Alfred’s side by spending time helping him with table settings, which spoons are for what.
Did this remind anyone else of “Pretty Woman”? Later, Thomas is passing James’ room and James asks if he can come to Thomas with questions and for help. Thomas says, of course. Game on!
O’Brien passes James’ door directly after, looking menacing. O’Brien did a lot of walking and glaring this episode.
Not much else. I think I’m going to start calling her Mrs. Danvers. I feel a bit sorry for her. Who is she left to plot with? Moseley? She’s being wasted right now.
Tom and Sybil, the Runaway Revolutionaries
It’s a dark and stormy night. A man runs through the streets. Back at Downton, Edith takes a call from Sybil, who says she’s all right and out of the flat and hasn’t been stopped. She hangs up before Edith can get any more information. Edith tells Cora and Mary about the call. Everyone is appropriately worried.
Tom bangs on the door during dinner, is hidden in Matthew’s rooms until the guests have left, and tells them he was witness to the burning of an aristocrat’s house, one that the Grantham’s knew. The Dowager Countess says, “The house was hideous, of course that’s no excuse” which seemed completely out of touch with the emotional tone of the scene so no score there, Dame Maggie.
The police think Tom was one of the instigators. That’s why he ran. Robert is, of course, furious. “You mean, you gave them Sybil to save yourself!” Tom says that when he saw the family turned out, with their children, in tears, watching their home burn. “I admit it – I want a free state but I was sorry,” he says.
But what’s happened to Sybil? Their plan was that he’d leave at once and she’d follow the next day. Robert explodes. How dare he leave a pregnant woman to fend for herself? Everyone else seems too subdued. More worry and emotion was exhibited when Matthew was missing in the war than for Sybil now. Robert will decide what to do in the morning. Tom goes to his room, cries. No pity from this quarter. A real man would not follow through on such a ridiculous plan, leaving his wife in such danger, pregnant or not. Another coward. First Sir Anthony, now Tom. Is Matthew next?
This whole Tom and Sybil escaping Ireland story was badly done. No adequate story preparation, just dumped on us, so didn’t register emotionally with me. Meh.
The next day a woman walks into Downton. We don’t see her face. Tom runs to her. Big dramatic make out session with the camera circling them. Really? Please. We know it’s Sybil. We never saw her in any danger, so the mysterious arrival and dramatic kiss is pretty pointless.
Robert returns from seeing the Home Secretary on Tom’s behalf. Tom can’t go back to Ireland or he’ll go to prison. He didn’t tell them that he attended Dublin meetings where the attacks were planned. Sybil, whose been holding her husband’s hand, drops it at this news. Later Sybil is upset. What else hasn’t he told her? Tom says he won’t stay at Downton for long. Sybil says they must stay for the baby’s sake. Poor Sybil. For all her independent thinking, she’s just traded one trap for another.
Daisy asks again about the new maid. Mrs. Patmore says they’re working on it. Alfred compliments her on speaking her mind. Daisy is about to say something to him but Mrs. Patmore cuts her off. Daisy visits William’s father and asks what he would think if she’d met a man she liked. He is supportive and wants her to be happy. Again, Daisy tries to say something to Alfred, but is interrupted by Mrs. Patmore (enough with the interruptions! Get on with it!) who introduces Ivy Stewart, the fresh-faced new kitchen maid. Daisy is now assistant cook. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Alfred says to Ivy, and offers his help if she needs it. Daisy stares daggers at her. Ivy smiles at her and says she hopes they’ll get on.
“We don’t have to get on. We have to work together,” Daisy says. Meow! I kind of like Daisy jealous and possibly plotting against Ivy. This turn of hers will be entertaining, but makes her seem a little nutty. She and Alfred haven’t had much interaction. I could easily see Daisy going off the deep end.
The third episode ends with Mrs. Hughes brings Anna a packet of Bates’ letters. Cut to Bates in his cell. A guard brings him all the withheld letters from Anna. He’s back in favor so can have them. Bates sits reading Anna’s letters. Cut to Anna in bed reading his letters. Both smiling and crying. Swelling music.
I vacillated between thinking it was sweet, nice to get back their original romantic vibe, but also another easy a wrap up of a conflict and a pretty unearned level of sentimentality since the ‘drama’ wasn’t made enough of. And why couldn’t we hear a voice over from both of them as each read the other’s letters?
Ethel’s parts, anything with Thomas, Daisy’s surprise turn, Matthew trying to make sense of the books and figure out what to do.
Otherwise, mostly a bit blah, with the usual leaps and inadequate back story. I did some calculations, and I counted about 48 scenes in the episode. Some were the same ongoing scene interrupted by cutting back and forth to other scenes, making everything too fragmented so you’re not allowed to settle into the emotion, the tension, the characters. You’re continually whisked away, getting 1-2 minute sections at a time of the same scene as we cut back and forth. The show would fare much better if that stopped and if three story lines were picked per episode and developed and followed the whole show, rather than the 7 or so we have here.
Let the debate begin!
To read the rest of this blog’s Downton Abbey’s Season 3 links, click here.
Note: Plot spoilers if you have not seen the 2nd episode! PBS is streaming each episode for a number of weeks one day after the air date. Click here to view online videos.
Review: Downton Abbey, S3, Episode Two: Being tested only makes you stronger, or platitudes don’t help when your heart is breaking.
The second episode was largely devoted to Edith, her wedding and aftermath, Matthew’s dithering about Swire’s money, Mrs. Hughes’ health, and the further deterioration of ThomasanO’brien’s relationship
For once Edith is happy and the viewer is led to believe that his time it’s Edith’s turn to shine. But woe betide the middle child, especially one who is plainer than her sisters and who so openly longs for the same good fortune and happiness as were bestowed on those prettier creatures. Poor Edith. It is pathetic to see how much she yearns for equality. “Something happening in this house is actually about me”, she states naively.
She gazes at Sir Anthony in worship, seeing freedom from Downton Abbey and the chance to be mistress of her own house, whereas her affianced is beginning to acquire a hunted look. No wonder. Hounded at first by the earl and then by Violet, he is starting to feel as second class as Edith. I have watched this episode three times and still cannot quite understand the earl’s and dowager countess’s objections. Even today, hardly anyone blinks when a Hugh Hefner or a Donald Trump marries a woman young enough to be their daughter or granddaughter. Has anyone taken a gander at Ronnie Wood’s latest bride? Hello! She’s younger than a Beaujolais Nouveau. The age gap has always favored the man, not the woman. Therefore I’ll ask it again: What is so objectionable about Sir Anthony?
The second episode starts well enough, with a Violet quipping over the wedding arrangements: “At my age one must ration one’s excitement.” That was just about the last time I liked her in this episode. I must backtrack on my last post in which I called Violet inviolate, for I despise her behavior towards the blissful couple, calling Sir Anthony a “broken down old crock” and observing,. “Edith is beginning her life as an old man’s drudge.” What strange things for granny to say in a post war world where practically any whole young man left standing couldn’t serve in the war to begin with. And Daddy Crawley is no better, although one gets the sense that he is starting to put a good face on the situation, saying to his prospective son-in-law: “I’m happy Edith is happy, I’m happy you mean to keep her happy. That is quite enough happiness to be getting on with.” Damned with faint praise, but at least he gave it.
And so Edith’s big day arrives It is pathetic to see how radiant she is. “All of us married. All of us happy,” she declares. How plaintive. How naïve.
Knowing how Papa and Granny Crawley feel and based on Edith’s past track record, the viewer can sense that trouble is brewing. Even the minister seems to have swallowed a sour candy as he commiserated with the still bleating Violet, who, upon seeing Sir Anthony in the pew, says: “He looks as if he’s waiting for a beating from the head master.”
She’s some sore loser and won’t quit until she’s had the last word. This trait has been charming thus far, but there is a time and a place for everything. Violet’s like a python. Once she starts twisting and choking her victim, she’s unable to let go.
Poor Edith, looking quite beautiful walking down the aisle. Her mother and sisters are genuinely happy for her. And then Sir Anthony drops the bomb, hyperventilating and backtracking faster than the speed of light, saying: “I can’t do it. Bye, bye y’all. Take care of my little Edie” as he hightails it out of the church.
Grannie restrains Edith from going after her man, urging her: “Let him go. Don’t stop him. Don’t drag it out. Wish him well.” But if crazy glue had been invented back then, Edith would have poured some all over herself and Sir Anthony and clung to him until they were stuck for life.
A good friend of mine pointed out an implausibility. It was clear that Sir Anthony was fond of Edith and even loved her. Would he have waited until the last-minute to cry off, or would he have sought a less public, less humiliating forum? Like the night before, for instance? Or arranged to meet Daddy Crawley that morning before everyone tramped off towards the church? Or asked that someone stop Edith from walking down the aisle so that he did not have to jilt her in front of kith and kin?
The real Sir Anthony would have done anything but humiliate Edith. This plot development smacks of “deliberate melodrama” syndrome, in which, given the choice to proceed logically or throw viewers off track, the writers chose the path that promises the most gasps and cries of outrage. I almost threw my glass of Merlot at the screen, but then thought of my liver and its enjoyment.
Laura Carmichael truly shines in these scenes, going from radiant to disbelief to grief of the rawest kind, tearing off her veil as she runs to the privacy of her room, flinging aside her tiara, and then, unable to stand the sight of her two lucky sisters, wailing: “ Look at them both with their husbands … Sybil pregnant … Mary probably pregnant.”
Hers was a raw, naked emotion and a cry of longing for a husband, her own house, a family. Now, all of it gone.
No one can console her, not even her mother.
Only a day later Anna enters Edith’s room and asks her: “What would you like me to get you?” and Edith responds, “A different life.”
My heart broke for her just a little. But what placed me firmly in Edith’s camp was this resigned yet stoic quip to Anna’s question: “Can I bring you up some breakfast?”
“No, I’m a useless spinster, good at helping out. That is my role. And spinsters get up for breakfast.
Edith’s made of stern stuff and she’s going to land on top. Mark my words. Grannie Violet takes one more post wedding dig when Carson offers to take the wedding food to the poor. “If the poor don’t want it, you can bring it over to me.” The woman who admonished Sybil with “vulgarity is no substitute for wit,” certainly could have used a dose of her own medicine.
ThomasanObrien’s dislike for each other is taking a serious turn. Thomas uses Moseley to create trouble for O’Brien with Cora. The valet informs Cora that since O’brien was leaving the Crawley’s service, could he nominate his niece for the post instead? Cora, who doesn’t like surprises, expresses her disappointment to her maid. (Cora’s shown her steely side before when it comes to servants, such as expressing her disbelief that Bates could fully perform his duties as valet when he first arrived in Season One.)
We also get a clear sense of Robert’s lack of fondness for O’Brien and his lack of support for her. O’Brien confronts Moseley, who reveals Thomas’s role in starting the rumor. In one of the better scenes in episode 2, O’Brien promises the footman that if he wants a fight, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Daisy is the unlikely heroine in Mary’s quest to save Downton Abbey from bankruptcy and ruin, confirming that she sent the letter for a dying Lavinia to her daddy, a letter that Matthew was certain had been counterfeited. Daisy’s been angry at Mrs. Patmore for not honoring her promotion to cook’s assistant, not knowing that the Crawleys at this point have less money than William’s farmer papa. I find her anger to be cute but petulant, like a kitten not getting its way. C’mon, Daise! The tarot cards and Ouija board say that you are going to inherit a rich yeoman farmer’s assets some day. Stay the course, girl, and you’ll be able to rent Downton Place in the near future.
Lavinia Swire’s Daddy’s Money
Chemistry twixt Matthew and Mary
Lavinia Swire’s daddy’s fortune causes a heap of troubles twixt newly wed Mary and Matthew. Am I the only one who thinks their scenes in this episode are stiffer than starch and have about as much chemistry as two brooms in a closet?
It was Robert and Matthew who provided the real romance in this episode, or, more correctly, a splendid bromance moment. When Matthew offers to fork over his inheritance to Robert, the earl rejoined teary-eyed: “Don’t be silly you’re not going to give me any money. What I will allow is for you to invest in the place.” Matthew’s scenes with Robert and Tom, with whom he plays pool, were more passionate than his with Mary. (She hasn’t been able to give off smoldering hot looks since Pamuk’s arrival in Season 1 at the hunt.)
Isobel and Ethel
Isobel Crawley remains a peripheral figure, always looking for something worthwhile to do, in this instance converting ho’s into respectable underpaid working women. Poor Ethel is in a very bad way and trapped in a downward spiral. Fallen women without a family had few choices back then, which was to starve, sell their bodies, or enter a workhouse. Shame prevents Ethel from seeking help, yet desperation forces her to come out of hiding to ask for aid from Isobel. I wish Matthew’s mama were given a meatier role, as in Season 1. Lately she’s come off as an irritant and, frankly, I miss her stand-offs with Violet.
The poor Crawleys. The specter of having to live in a luxurious house instead of a mansion and having to let all but 8 servants go puts the lot of them in a bad mood. Off they go a-picnicking to view the grounds of their new abode and surprise the current tenant, who probably thought he had a 90-year lease. Only Cora can see the positive side of things, which makes me wonder all the more about her back story and what makes her tick. In this scene Violet is given a couple of zingers, my favorite of which is a rejoinder to her son, who tries to find room for all the family (talk about boomerang kids!)
Violet: What about me? Where am I supposed to go?
Robert: Well we still own most of the village.
Violet: Perhaps I can open up a shop?
Without these three upper servants, Downton Abbey, the series, wouldn’t be the same. Mrs. Hughes’ worry about cancer, Mrs. Patmore’s sincere concern for her friend, and Mr. Carson’s astute reading of the situation were a joy to watch. Many worry lines were lifted off Mrs. Hughes’s brow when Cora promised the housekeeper that she would always have a place at Downton and that she would be taken care of.
But my favorite scene was the last one, in which Mrs. Hughes observed Carson singing a little ditty after learning that her tumor was benign. In the first season, Carson declared that the servants were his family. This viewer wonders: is a romance brewing between Carson and Mrs. Hughes? Stay tuned, readers.
For those who have seen the full season, please feel free to comment, but, please, no plot spoilers.
Gentle readers, One lucky U.S. reader is eligible to win a copy of Syrie James’s latest book, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen! (See below) Contest Closed: The winner is - Lilyane Soltz. Congratulations!
The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, Syrie James
In the Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, author Syrie James attempts a plot device that often trips up even the most experienced authors -a novel within a novel. Samantha McDonough, librarian and Jane Austen scholar, stumbles upon a clue in an old book of poetry she purchased while on a visit to England.
The minute I saw the letter, I knew it was hers. There was no mistaking it: the salutation, the tiny, precise handwriting, the date, the content itself, all confirmed its ancient status and authorship…
This letter leads her on a quest to find a missing manuscript by Jane Austen. Her journey lands her on the doorstep of handsome Anthony Whitaker, who has just inherited his estranged father’s rundown estate. By virtue of her charm, grit, and determination, Samantha persuades a skeptical Anthony to rummage around dusty rooms, cupboards, and closets and his attic until, voilà, they miraculously find a manuscript entitled The Stanhopes and that consists of 41 tiny hand-cut and bound booklets. (The Watsons, Jane’s unfinished manuscript, is made of 11 similarly bound booklets.)
A draft of Jane Austen’s novel The Watsons, which was written in about 1804 . Image @The Guardian
Anthony and Samantha immediately begin to read Jane’s long lost words, and, like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, the pair are instantly swept into the story of Rebecca Stanhope and her father, a rector with a propensity for mild gambling over a friendly game of cards. His vice sets off the plot, which is based on Jane’s hilarious Plan of a Novel. In short order, the rector loses a great deal of money with which he has been entrusted and then is forcibly retired from his living. Now destitute, Mr. Stanhope and Rebecca (a sweet heroine in the vein of a slightly feistier Jane Bennet or more mature Catherine Morland) must move from place to place – from the rectory to a married daughter’s cramped house, to an elegant abode in Bath, to a seedy inn, and so forth. Along the way, Rebecca receives three proposals, one that is almost as ridiculous as Mr. Collins’ proposal to Elizabeth, and two more serious ones from two suitors who are as different from each other in temperament and intent as, well, Henry Crawford and Edmund Bertram or Willoughby and Colonel Brandon. The road to a romantic union is rocky, and along the way both heroines (Rebecca and Samantha) must learn some harsh truths about themselves and others before they can be united with their heroes.
As the story develops, the reader will recognize a number of plot developments and characters based on those in Austen’s novels. Since the missing manuscript was written early (1802) and before Jane published her books and rewrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice for publication, one can assume that this manuscript is meant to be a foreshadowing of the mature novels. Syrie James, a strong writer in her own right, is smart in setting Jane’s lost manuscript so early in Jane’s writing career. Austen’s Juvinilia includes melodramatic twists and turns, evident in Northanger Abbey (when Catherine Morland is forced to leave the Abbey alone in the middle of the night) and in The Stanhopes, when Rebecca must find employment in the most unusual and creative way in order to feed herself and her father. The reader should also assume that the manuscript, having been lost before Jane could fully edit and revise it, was found in its ”raw” stage. This would explain any stylistic differences between the lost manuscript and Jane’s later works (and, more practically, between Syrie’s and Jane’s writing styles as well).
I won’t give too much of the plot away, except to say that I was more interested in the Stanhopes than the modern Samantha and Anthony story line. (I believe I had the same preference with Jane Odiwe’s Searching for Captain Wentworth, in which I liked the time travel to the past more than the contemporary narrative.) Syrie’s novel is filled with historically and geographically correct details, which I always appreciate in a novel set in a foreign country or in the past. As an interesting aside, one of Samantha’s friends in the modern world is Laurel Ann, a bookseller. Who could it be, I wonder? (Hint: Austenprose.)
Insights into Jane Austen’s World
Syrie, who I met at the Brooklyn AGM meeting and whose Regency costumes are varied and fabulous, graciously sent me some interesting details about one of Jane’s letters to Cassandra, and how one should handle an old manuscript:
I don’t know if it’s strange or funny, but while re-reading Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra, I was fascinated to find the following mention of a “shut-up bed”:
Martha kindly made room for me in her bed, which was the shut-up one in the new nursery. Nurse and the child slept upon the floor, and there we all were in some confusion and great comfort. The bed did exceedingly well for us, both to lie awake in and talk till two o’clock, and to sleep in the rest of the night.
I take this to mean that a “shut-up bed” is what we now call a Murphy bed, or a bed that folds up and away by day into a piece of furniture. I happily put this information to use in The Stanhopes.
Here’s one fact that surprised me: I presumed that when my modern day characters found Jane Austen’s centuries-old manuscript, they’d have to wear latex gloves while handling it. (That was previous my experience when reviewing precious, old documents.) However, Christine Megowan, the Special Collections Librarian at Loyola Marymount University, explained that none of the conservators she knows wear gloves to handle old books and paper, because they don’t fit well and are clumsy. As long as your hands are clean and you work gently, she said, the oils on your fingers don’t do all that much damage to paper—you’d do far more mechanical damage by fumbling with latex gloves. I put that quote directly into the novel.
If you are interesting in reading similar insights from Syrie, click on the links to her blog tour!
About Syrie James:
Syrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Nocturne, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages. In addition to her work as a novelist, she is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
About the book giveaway for The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen:
For your chance to win a copy of Syrie’s latest book, let us know how you would feel and react if you stumbled across a long lost Jane Austen document! Contest open to U.S. readers only. Drawing by random number generator. Deadline, January 23rd, 2013, midnight EST. Contest Closed: The winner is - Lilyane Soltz. Congratulations!
Two episodes, two weddings, two radically different endings. Poor Edith. She’s rapidly turning into the Upstairs version of Mr. Bates. Poor Edith/poor Bates. See how these two phrases can be used interchangeably? But Edith’s fate is not what this post is about. I am asking you to cast your critical eyes upon the two wedding dresses and two wedding parties and vote for your fave. Who sported a more breathtaking 1920s bridal outfit? Whose flowers blow your mind? And who spurred guests to dress better? Edith or Mary? Curious minds want to know. Find the poll at the bottom of this post.
Downton Abbey Season 3, Episode 2 Wedding Dress Poll
Alas and alack the results of the two weddings were radically different. While one couple experienced wedded bliss, the other couple, well, uncoupled. Sir Anthony, cad, fleed the scene, leaving poor Edith bereft and without purpose. Poor Edith. I am firmly on her team.
Feel free to leave your comments about Episode Two, butno spoilers about later episodes please. Review to come.
The anticipation is over for American fans. PBS has aired the first two-hour installment of Downton Abbey Season 3 and we have had 6 days to digest the goings on of the Crawleys, their friends, relatives and spouses. All week people have been asking me: What are your thoughts?
Let me confess, I saw the entire series before Christmas and have since dithered. How to review a program that contains a minefield of plot spoilers? I decided to share my thoughts one week at a time. So, without further ado, I’ll break down the first 120 minutes.
I salivated, I yearned, I couldn’t wait for Shirley’s appearance KNOWING that she would be Maggie Smith’s equal in retorts and sarcasm. Boy, was I wrong. My dreams of epic verbal sparring between two battle axes were dashed, leaving me feeling as flat as a bottle of Champagne left open for too long. The best line was Martha’s opening salvo when she first sees Violet:
Martha: “Oh dear, I’m afraid the war has made old women of us both.”
Violet: “Oh, I wouldn’t say that – but then, I always keep out of the sun.
I expected more zingers between these two characters, but alas they were few and far between. Martha is a brash American who wears her fortune on her person and looks a bit too newly-minted. She also apes her youngers in dress and fashion, a species whom Violet refuses to acknowledge as her sartorial betters.
Martha lacks proper manners, and here is where the Brit writers got her wrong, for Martha lives in Newport, Rhode Island, one of the snobbiest enclaves for the rich in early 20th century America. As Edith Wharton so brilliantly attested in her novels, there is nothing snobbier than a New York/New England socialite. A nouveau riche American trying to make a dent in that upper strata would have to learn to behave. Martha might be gauche and her money might be fresher than yesterday’s salmon, but she would have known about proper etiquette and manners, make no mistake about that.
My biggest surprise was Shirley’s physical presence. Maggie looms large in every scene, whereas Shirley’s hunched figure seemed diminished in contrast to Maggie’s stiff upper lip and upright posture. Worse, there was no connection between Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and Martha (Shirley). The viewer was left to wonder about the back story between mother and daughter. A short but marvelously written scene could have given us insight as to what makes Cora tick, but this never happened. An opportunity lost? You betcha.
As a member of Team Bates I’ve had enough! Will someone please break Bates out of prison before I start rooting for Thomas? I’m sick of watching Anna and Bates making moon eyes at each other across a prison table. Anna does show some moxie in that she’s determined to sleuth in order to free her man. And who knew that Bates could be so ruthless with his cell mate? No patsy he! Still … I yearn to see Bates and his Anna in a more uplifting story line and it isn’t happening anytime soon.
The dissolution of the finest villanous couple in PBS history
I’m at a loss for words. Who’d have thunk that the writers would mess with Thomas and O’Brien? I never thought of them as separate entities but as ThomasanObrien. They were always plotting in back corridors as we watched in glee. The reason for their estrangement is so piddly it’s barely worth a mention. Thomas is worried about keeping his job at Downton Abbey and O’Brien’s wants to promote her too tall nephew to footman. THAT’s the conflict. It’s llike asking circus lions to perform a kitten’s trick, or akin to morphing The Clash of the Titans into a bitch fight at a “Real Housewives” party.
The truncated wedding of Mary and Matthew
If you blinked at the wrong time you might have thought that you time travelled. One moment Matthew is making goo goo eyes at his bride at the altar and in the next they are dashing around the countryside in an automobile. No I do’s. No kisses. No tossing of rice, and no cavorting under the sheets in wedded bliss. When the wedding scene was cut short, a gasp went around the room (7 of us viewed the first episode together) and then we shouted – “We wuz robbed!” Anna and the viewers do get a glimpse of Mary and Matthew in bed — much much later. All I could think was: “What if Anna had walked into the room while they were doing IT?” To paraphrase Cher Horowitz in Clueless – “Ewwww.”
Lady Edith, shameless hussy
World War One and influenza did more to reduce Europe’s male population than untold centuries of starvation, hunting accidents, duels, or bar brawls ever did. After 1918, there were a gazillion fertile young women for every man. No wonder Lady Edith set her sight, hooks, and clamps upon Sir Anthony Strallan. While considerably older than the nubile Edith, he’s not all that decrepit a specimen of British aristocratic manhood. He still has his teeth and hair, and can offer her a fine house. While one of his hands can no longer do the job for which it was intended, the other can still unhook Lady Edith’s underthings if Sir Anthony so desired. What else would a young lady of breeding age want? With her biological clock ticking and her eggs shriveling by the minute (and with nothing much else to do), Edith hones in on Sir Anthony like a heat seeking missile, which makes Papa Crawley’s innards crawl The viewer is asked to wonder why, since historically young aristocratic British maidens were SACRIFICED on the altar of land and wealth with nary a blink of an eye by their doting papas.
Tom Branson and his Sybil
Credit: Courtesy of Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE
Our former chauffeur turned newspaperman wears ill-fitting suits and cannot let go of his political fervor even at the dinner table. The servants sniff and snort within his vicinity, unable to withhold their disdain for a man who married his BETTER. The servants resort to the tools they know best to put him in his place. When serving him at table, the footmen hold platters of food too high or low for comfort, or for too short a time. Others sling sideway looks and lift their noses as if smelling a putrid excrescence. Violet shows much more tolerance towards Branson, for in her book he has become FAMILY.
As for Saint Sybil, she’s turned into the invisible woman. Branson leaves her in danger in Ireland to save his own hide, and when she finally shows up at the Abbey, she’s pregnant, dowdy, and all but mute. What’s happened to our feisty miss? I’m not feeling her this season and apparently she’s not feeling it either..
In this instance the writers have not messed with perfection. Either that or Maggie Smith is able to rise above hasty script writing. She’s given fewer zingers this go-round, but every utterance is platinum in my book. Do not criticize my Maggie or you will be banished from my blog forever.
Let’s face it, the first episode is off to a slow start. The writers are juggling too many story lines, but the main problem with season three is the lack of real conflict. Season One featured the sinking of the Titanic, which killed off Downton’s heir, and Season Two played against the backdrop of World War One. The only thing Season Three has going for it thus far is that the earl has lost Cora’s money out of sheer stupidity by investing all of it in one railway, and that Matthew refuses to save the day with Lavinia’s dead daddy’s money because of his tiresome high-mindedness about having let Lavinia down. Mary’s still willing to marry him and not pull a Clytemnestra, which boggles the mind. Meanwhile, as Daddy Crawley is forced to contemplate selling his books and his beloved dog Isis, and firing all the servants in order to make ends meet, his daughter Mary is spending money on her trousseau like no tomorrow.
With tepid fare like this, the 120 minutes seemed to drag on. At the end of the first episode, I sang in my best Peggy Lee voice, “Is that all there is?” Well, no. There is more to come and the season does gain momentum. There will be plot twists and turns that will leave viewers stupefied, howling with grief and laughter, or wanting more. Too bad that the first episode barely hinted at the drama to come.
I did a quick survey among friends and colleagues this week and tallied up the scores. Half the people I talked to loved the first episode, the others felt like me. All were let down by Shirley MacLain’s performance, except for one. The best line regarding saving Downton Abbey from bankruptcy came from Market Watch, which asked: “Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you were Earl and Countess of Grantham, what would you do?” One person answered, “I say buy life insurance on Mary and knock her off. Ghastly woman.”
Gentle readers, in celebration of Pride and Prejudice’s 200 year anniversary, Jane Austen’s World will feature a regular article about Jane Austen’s most popular novel throughout 2013. We can count on frequent contributor Tony Grant from London Calling to provide us with a unique perspective. Enjoy!
All good films have a car chase. Some originate from well written, exciting, nail-biting, on the edge of your seats, breathless descriptions in a novel.
Steve McQueen in mustang
Let it not be said Pride and Prejudice doesn’t have it’s nail biter, it’s moment of burning rubber and screeching tyres that is right up there with Steve McQueen ripping up the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt, hurling his Ford Mustang over the lips of hills and down daredevil slopes with a street fighters aggression or Michael Caine escaping the Italian police with wheels spitting gravel and door smashing bravado in his supercharged mini cooper GT along the Corniche, “not many people know that,” or John Thaw in The Sweeney, as gritty streetwise cop Jack Regan thundering through the Isle of Dogs in his 3 litre V6 Ford Consul GT. Mr Bennett has his contenders, but not, may I dare say, his equals, oh no.
Elizabeth Bennett, who is visiting Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle, the Gardeners has received a letter from her sister Jane
Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of alarming you — be assured that we are all well. What I have to say relates to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve last night, just as we were all gone to bed, from Colonel Forster, to inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his officers; to own the truth, with Wickham!”
Image of eloping couple. 1815
This piece of information about Lydia sets in motion, literally, a series of coach journeys and desperate searchings that rivals anything Steve McQueen or Michael Caine partook of.
Michael Caine: Nuts to your watches! You just be at the Piazza at a quarter to..
Steve McQueen: Look, you work your side of the street, and I’ll work mine.
Det. Insp. Jack Regan: Remember, no guns unless they use ‘em.
Mr Gardner and Mr Bennett walking the streets of London, searching for Wickham and Lydia could well have used lines like those. What needs to be said, what needs to be done, never changes whatever century, don’t you think?
“…and all three being actuated by one spirit, every thing relating to their journey was speedily settled. They were to be off as soon as possible.”
And so Mr and Mrs Gardner and Lizzie Bennett sped south to Longbourn at the hair-raising speed of 10 miles per hour or more, on the occasion of increased velocity being achieved when long flat straight roads presented themselves; jolted and tossed about, no doubt, like three potatoes in a sack.
But Lydia and Wickham were as devious and cunning as any mafia on the streets of Naples, or ruthless bank robbers from the East End of London or murderous killers off the dangerous streets of San Francisco. Gretna Green was, dare I say, a red herring. They spread rumours, gasp, horror; they planned and they plotted, they predicted and they saw clearly with their crazed, devious minds thinking out brilliantly, their next move. They lived the heady adrenalin pumped life of criminals on the run.
Mr Bennett “… did trace them easily to Clapham, but no farther; for on entering that place they removed into a Hackney coach and dismissed the chaise that brought them from Epsom.”
Oh gosh and golly, what subterfuge, what dastardly cunning. They actually changed from a chaise to a hackney coach.The evil mind games of those criminals. But they were hunted, yes, hunted, by Mr Bennett, he, a wily, ruthless backwoodsman who once he smelled the scent of his prey cannot, will not, be put off his quest. Mrs Bennett was right to be desperate in her concerns,
And now here’s Mr Bennett gone away and I know he will fight Wickham, wherever he meets him, and then he will be killed, and what is to become of us all?”.
Popeye Doyle himself could not compete with Mr Bennett surely in his ruthless endeavour
The son of a bitch is here. I saw him. I’m gonna get him.”
But our Mr Bennett in his utter, focused, desperate determination can but say,
“Who should suffer but myself? It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it.”
Good gracious, the man is a titan of hot-blooded aggression. Surely nothing can prevail? Wickham has met his match.
Epsom Watch House & Clock c1840 from Dugdale’s England & Wales Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre
Elizabeth was desperate to know what lengths, what depths her father would go to retrieve his wayward daughter, her very own sister.
He meant, I believe,” replied Jane, “to go to Epsom, the place where they last changed horses, see the postilions, and try if anything could be made out from them. His principal object must be to discover the number of the hackney coach which took them from Clapham. “
Of course, a touch of sheer genius; find out the number of the Hackney Coach. That would do it. He would be sure to find them then.
And after all this searching, this animal desperation, this wolf like howl of anguish ripped from the primeval instinctive depths of Mr Bennett’s heart, what then? What could be the consequences? So after many letters flying backwards and forwards, if anything, P&P appears to hinge very often on the writing, sending and receiving of letters, Mr Gardner has appeared to pay Wickhams debts,, Mr Bennet has only to provide a paltry £100 a year, he can’t believ his luck and can’t quite work out the finances as if he ever could work out his finances. (Aside: we all know who really has settled the finances, don’t we?? Ha! Ha! It’s getting more like a pantomime all the time this. Mrs Bennnet as Widow Twanky and Mr Bennet as Baron Hardup.)
He had never before supposed that, could Wickham be prevailed on to marry his daughter, it would be done with so little inconvenience to himself as by the present arrangement. He would scarcely be ten pounds a year the loser, by the hundred that was to be paid them; for, what with her board and pocket allowance, and the continual presents in money which passed to her through her mother’s hands, Lydia’s expenses had been very little within that sum.
That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side, too, was another very welcome surprise; for his chief wish at present was to have as little trouble in the business as possible. When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former indolence.”
So Wickham was to marry Lydia and Mrs Bennett was happy and all was well with Mr Bennett and he could return to his former state of,” indolence.” A sort of Popeye Doyle with carpet slippers smoking a pipe and reading his newspaper seated at his fireside; a Michael Caine reminiscing about his past, cold eyed and tough emotionless roles in Get Carter relaxing now in his easy chair or Steve McQueen sitting back on his ranch, his rocking chair gently calming his fevered brain and letting his motorbikes go rusty, crying into his beer, or, even a Jack Regan from The Sweeney who could at last ,” Shut it!” himself. Ah, all was well in the end. Colonel Forster could return too to Brighton, to the lesser dangers of defending our shores and leading his regiment against Napoleon knocking at the very shingle on Brighton Beach. Mr and Mrs Gardner could return to the hustle and bustle and shops and markets of Gracechurch Street in the city and Lizzie and Jane, yes, well, we know what becomes of Lizzie and Jane,
Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards visited Mrs Bingley and talked of Mrs Darcy may be guessed.”
Lydia in connubial bliss and Wickham apparently not so
So, in a novel dedicated to getting daughters married, a lot of horse and carriage mileage is accrued and many letters are written. We only hear of weddings, but we certainly know about how characters felt. Will, Lady Catherine ever get over being, “exceedingly angry” or will she just explode with high blood pressure?
The third year of Downton Abbey Mania is about to commence. I am fully prepared to devote the next 7 Sundays sitting in front of PBS to join the Crawleys, their friends, and relatives and watch this high-end dramatic soap plot unfold (January 6th – February 17th). The action has moved from the Edwardian Era and the carnage of World War I and entered the 1920s – the jazz age, the flapper age, and the first generation in which youth held sway in music, the arts, and fashion, influencing their elders in the process.
Scores of young men are now dead and mourned in burial grounds across Europe. The young, angry at the carnage and destruction and irreplaceable loss of life and limb, turned away from their parents’ rules and adopted a looser, more flamboyant lifestyle. Women voted, drove cars, drank, had affairs, attended jazz clubs, and skirted convention. The youth culture was in full sway, and for the first time adults began to ape their youngers.
Adolescence became the new standard of beauty – youthful adolescence, or the “garconne” look. Thin was in, and the idea was to appear small bosomed, small hipped, and boyish.
The prepubescent girl look became popular, including flattened breasts and hips, and bobbed hair. Fashions turn to the “little girl look” in “little girl frocks”: curled or shingled hair, saucer eyes, the turned-up nose, bee-stung mouth, and de-emphasized eyebrows, which emphasize facial beauty. Shirt dresses have huge Peter Pan collars or floppy bow ties and are worn with ankle-strap shoes with Cuban heels and an occasional buckle. Under wear is fashionable in both light colors and black, and is decorated with flowers and butterflies. – Women’s Fashion 1920
Gabrielle Chanel, Evening Dress in Crepe Georgette with Silver Lamé Sash. France, c. 1923. Image @canalblog.com
Hems rose, bras were condemned, and fabrics swayed and shimmered. Unchaperoned dates became de rigueur. And hair was worn short or bobbed. Gone were the restrictive corsets of their mothers and grandmothers. Hemlines began to rise so that by 1924, skirts stopped at the knee (displaying the entire lower leg) and waistlines dropped below the hips. Slits, pleats, and skirt gathers allowed for freedom of movement. Fabrics for evening wear shimmered with metallic thread, beads, and sequins. Dance clothes were made of gold lame or flowy fabrics cut on the bias. Fringes showed movement, and the craze for new dances like the Charleston and Tango, was in full swing.
Fashion silhouette for 1922
How did the women of Downton Abbey fare in this new liberated age? Let’s look, shall we?
First, Lady Edith, who we last saw straddling a tractor in pants and learning to drive an automobile, is still trying to find a relevant place in the world. Stuck in the middle of two beautiful sisters, she has yet to find her unique position.
Coco Chanel strongly influenced fashion throughout the 20th century. Her dresses for working women and women on the go sported functional features and lacked superficial decorations. Her fashions were clean, sleek, and monotone. In the image below, Edith, who has found a job as a columnist, visits her editor in a practical yet fashionable gown.
Unlike Lady Edith, Lady Mary has everything, including access to funds. In order to become rich, she has to look the part. It helps enormously that Lady Mary’s figure is thin, elegant, and small-bosomed. Her future assured, she spends no time worrying about the cost of her wardrobe and indulges herself royally before the wedding.
For those whose interests in 1920′s fashion has reached new heights, click here to visit my Pinterest board entitled 1925: http://pinterest.com/janeaustenworld/1925/. For more about avant-garde dresses of the 20′s, google Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Lavin (and his robes de style), Paul Poiret (who lost his leadership position in fashion during this era, but who was heavily influenced by Japanism), and Liberty and Co. of Paris and London.
Next week: My review of the first 3 hours of Season Three of Downton Abbey. PLEASE, in your comments do not reveal spoilers. We in the U.S. have not yet seen the series. Thank you!
Happy 200th year anniversary, Pride and Prejudice! Much to my delight, author Susannah Fullerton has written a comprehensive homage to the novel to start off a year-long celebration. Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece is chock full of new and old information about Jane Austen’s most popular and beloved work. Written in Susannah’s breezy style (reading the book is like hearing Susannah talk enthusiastically about one of her favorite authors in person), the book follows the creation, writing, and publication of Pride and Prejudice; examines the appeal of its hero and heroine minutely; analyzes other major and minor characters; and discusses translations, illustrators, sequels and adaptations, films and theatricals, and P&P paraphernalia in some depth. In other words, Celebrating Pride and Prejudice is a one-stop reading shop for P&P enthusiasts.
Copyrighted Gough image courtesy Voyageur Press.
Fullerton’s book is lavishly illustrated, with a number of images not well-known in the Austen cannon, such as Philip Gough’s lovely colored images which have been hidden from contemporary view for too long (unless one purchases an expensive out of print 1951 edition – if one can be found!), and also those from Robert Ball, Rhys Williams, Joan Hassal, and Isabel Bishop. Modern illustrators like Jane Odiwe, Liz Monahan, and Anne Kronheimer are also included.
Mr. Darcy on a UK stamp commemorating Jane Austen. Copyrighted image courtesy Voyageur Press.
Fullerton enlivens her chapter with interesting details, such as the location of Lydia’s wedding, Mrs. Bennet’s housekeeping skills, what other critics say about Lizzy and Darcy, and Christmas in Austen’s day. She also includes an interesting theory about Mr. Darcy (with which I vehemently disagree), which describes him as being “slightly autistic”. (Note that Fullerton merely introduces a theory proposed by Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer in her book, So Odd a Mixture.) Such details add a little peppery spice to this celebration of P&P. There are many more insights, but I particularly liked Fullerton’s own conclusion about Elizabeth and Lydia:
Ghastly as Lydia Bennet is, she and Elizabeth make credible sisters; Jane Austen has taken genetics into account. Both are attracted to Wickham, both break society’s rules (Elizabeth walks alone through the countryside), both have high energy levels,… and they share the same thoughts about Miss King (‘nasty little freckled thing’).”
Shot of google page with Pride and Prejudice book covers.
Celebrating P&P includes an extensive listing of British, American, and foreign film and television productions of P&P. As a would-be purchaser you might ask yourself: Does Fullerton offer new insights about P&P in her new book? Not for the more seasoned Janeite, but that isn’t its purpose. It’s meant to be an homage and celebration, much as the title states. Fullerton concludes her book with “Pride and Prejudice as bibliotherapy” and an essay from Elsa Solender, past president of JASNA. For those of us who eat, breathe, sleep, and dream Pride and Prejudice and all things Jane Austen, Reading Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Masterpiece is exactly the bibliotherapy we need to start 2013 off right. I congratulate Susannah Fullerton for a job well done and thank her for an enjoyable three evenings of reading this holiday season.
Opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice in different languages. Fullerton discusses its meaning in quite some detail.
Susannah Fullerton is also the author of A Dance with Jane Austen
Hello, my name is Vic and I live in Richmond, VA. I work in program and professional development at Virginia Commonwealth University, and I have adored Jane Austen almost all of my life. I am a proud lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of America. This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. I do not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, I do accept and keep books, DVDs and CDs to review.
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An online Regency novel in serialized form. Click here to read a new chapter of Irresistible Attraction each week, and follow the story of Amanda Sinclair and James Cavendish, the Earl of Downsley.
My Regency Tea Cup Review Ratings
Five Regency tea cups: The book is not perfect (few books are), but it was well worth its purchase and possesses many outstanding qualities that makes it stand head and shoulders above its counterparts.
Four Regency tea cups: This book offered many hours of pleasant reading, and I found I could not put it down.
Three Regency tea cups: Damned with faint praise. I put the book down often, but was intrigued enough to finish it. In this instance, the movie might be better.
Two Regency tea cups: This book required major changes that the author and editor should have fixed before publishing deadline.
One Regency tea cup: Oh dear. I do so feel for the trees that sacrificed their lives for this verbal garbage.