Posts Tagged ‘symbolic women’

From closing frames of S&S (modeled on Andrew Wyeth picture?, Liew, Molinari, Sabino)

From closing frames of NA (imagery of pastoral intermixed with nightmare, novel as Catherine’s dream, Lee, Pildari, Eckelberry)

Dear friends and readers,

Surely it’s time to write about Austen here again. Long overdue some might say.

Last night I read and perused the latest graphic novel of Northanger Abbey, words chosen and written by Nancy Butler, the artist Janet K Lee; colorist Nick Pilardi, letterer Jeff Eckleberry. It’s a Marvel product and since in just the way the company that produces a film predetermines the shape and much that is indefinably the film so the comic book publisher Marvel predetermines elements of the commodity they sell. Thus it’s no surprise if the other Marvel graphic novel I own, which I also reread and looked at the pictures for far more carefully and deeply than I’ve done before, Sense and Sensibility, also by Nancy Butler, but this time artist Sonny Liew, colorist L. Molinai, Letterer Joe Sabino, showed a strong family resemblance.

The Dashwood family approaches Barton Cottage (Liew, L. Molinar, Joe Sabino, angle and shot from the 1996 Ang Lee/Emma Thompson S&S)

Catherine and Isabella exploring Bath (based on general gothic mode, Lee, Pilardi, Eckleberry) Isabella “easy, unreserved conversation” (!), showing Butler can do irony

Both have marvelous large pictures at the close of the most striking of the panels that are smaller inside the story — and here both are highly original or they allude to famous works of art or movie/movie genres.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them — I have a strong tendency to see these books as comic books but under the influence of Simon Grennan’s Dispossession, which I bought at the Trollope conference meeting, and is a graphic novel adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s John Caldigate, I began to look at the individual panels seriously for the first time, and could see they are genuinely art; in these two cases expressionistic, and project a general outlook and mood, not necessarily Austen’s but a reading of her. It’s obvious that Posy Simmonds and Audrey Niffennegger’s graphic novels are art, Simmonds’s images are so distinctive — and Niffennegger’s spun art in the manner of artistic poem books. These Marvel books are not so; they are deliberately set up in frames and use typologies resembling more comic book images — probably not to put off the comic book buyer. I can’t say that all Marvel comics are genuinely good; and I know some of the recent autobiographical graphic novels rich on text are poor on images (which makes them poor graphic novels), but these are worth perusal.

As with Posy and Niffennegger, one aspect of the enjoyment is the text. In both cases Butler is the writer and she choses wisely to take as much from Austen’s text straight as she can. I once had a publisher tell me when you publish about Austen let your guide by to quote her when you can. You are sure to please that way. So you are reading Austen epitomized, in bits and pieces, sometimes altered and expanded with piquant details, often from the era, but they are well chosen.

Mr Willoughby and Marianne have their first literary discussion: it’s about Scott

As Henry and Catherine drive up to the Abbey, it is gothic — purples, greys, angles which are edgy

The pictures matter of course, maybe more than the words. In the case of NA I was surprised to find very dark colors used for Bath itself, Bath made gothic, with overlarge oddly angled depictions of the characters (so we are inside their minds), haunting kinds of shapes for what happens. In the case of the S&S, there are zoom shots, the characters look so overawed and powerless against the screens they are caught in, especially Mrs Dashwood in her widow’s garb, at a kind of great distance angle of shot from on high, very sudden too.

The page where Catherine receives the invitation to go to the Abbey and discusses it with the Allens

Fanny Dashwood needling Mrs Dashwood to make her take Elinor away, Mrs Dashwood vowing not to take this punishment

Butler (in a preface) talks of Northanger Abbey as sending up the gothic, but the artist and especially the colorer made Bath into a gothic image, with the characters sometimes looming and scary in context. Everything feels pervasive from colors seeping around to lines — lots of odds oranges, off-color yellows, browns. As if a page is the inner or deeper feeling of Catherine. The lines on the face of John Thorpe make him menacing. Real grit in the S&S: this frame combines the melancholy of the three Brandons: Robert Swann who uses a cane (1983), melancholy Alan Rickman with that brown jacket (1996), David Morrisey brooding most of all:

(You do have to abandon your critical faculties to the cartoon’s edge into absurdity)

In the S&S panel you see the characters drawn as on a stage from different angles and then squares within squares with faces close up, so tensions from social life come out: in the preface to S&S Butler speaks of the book as about sisters, and outrage over the way the Dashwoods are treated by the laws and when they arrive in Devonshire custom. Butler and Lee’s S&S takes off from the movies.

It’s undeniable that many of the characters are drawn to recall specific actors in either the 1996 Emma Thompson S&S or the 2008 Andrew Davies one; the dresses; the way Colonel Brandon is figured as so strong, manly, and melancholy with a cane. Many of the frames prefer what happened in one or other other of these two S&S than Austen’s more simple lack of particulars. So Barton Park recalls the 2008 S&S grand mansion (even photographed or drawn in the same way) and Barton cottage the 1996 S&S house (as they come up the walk) though the inside is more like the 2008 (as they go through the place, with the same clothes as Charity Wakefield and Hattie Morahan had on). As this is the third time I’ve read this one I started to see new things, and for the first time recognized some memories of the 1983 S&S film too — in the dresses, in some of what’s emphasized in the choices of text, occasionally a frame resembles a shot in the 1983 film — the script writer for the 1983 film was Alexander Baron, a fine novelist in his own right who did quite a number of the Dickens and one notable Bronte adaptation for the BBC in the 1980s. Mrs Jenkins is even modelled on Patricia Routledge from the 1971 S&S (Denis Constanduros the writer), with this wild page showing Ciaran Maddan as Marianne and Joanna David as Elinor:

The hairstyle suggest Irene Richards is remembered in the grieving Elinor

Yet at the same time similarly there is a particular interpretation which is Butler and Liew’s own and it’s poignant because of the high shots. It’s more daylight mind (Molinari did the colors) here than the Marvel NA, with normal perspectives on the size of the characters (they don’t overwhelm a page) and the background made into light of the day or quiet of an evening so there is a quieter feel to the work.

I have read a previous graphic novel adaptation of Northanger Abbey (words Trina Robbins, illustrator Anne Timmons): a Gothic classics volume which contains 5 novels so each one is shorter (it includes Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho, words Antonella Caputo, illustrator Carlo Vergara); I want to say that the pictures are in black-and-white makes them limited only I know that Posy Simmonds makes beauty, gives depth with drawings on white too. I think it’s the wild angles of the frames themselves, sudden thrusting and most of all that the gothic is kept to throughout.



Also the use of Austen’s words: in the NA and S&S both occasionally Andrew Davies’s superb perceptive scripts.

I probably enjoyed them strongly because I’ve not been reading Austen in a while and when I return (I am grateful this is so) after having been away for a while, I forget all the outside materials I read about Austen: while some adds and enriches, so much is said or has been that to say something new or different (which is required) mars the experience because it’s so intermixed with the critic-writer’s political/social point of view and my feeling of how this book is supposed to operate for them in the Austen world, or just things that are said that are a new extreme and grate, or simply ignore the book altogether or mock it (in effect it’s so over-the-top in its reactive reading) though the person writing does not always know that.

Post-texts. S&S has the occasional wink as featured in the upper frame of its windowed cover:


while the NA is not above bats, and allusions to vampires, Udolpho and bookishness (the ancient table the two sit on are held up by fat ancient tomes)


I should not have been surprised as I love studying film (and films are moving pictures), loved art history and see pictures as endlessly meaningful when well done. In this Marvel NA, we have many narrowed eyes, on the male and female faces, suggestive; in this S&S really detailed developments out of Austen via different movies.


It’s a small vindication of the readings each perform since Austen’s words are used to pull NA into gothic realms, and easily host images from across 4 S&S films

My daughter Izzy bought the Northanger Abbey one on Sunday, November 1st, and we said it was appropriate to the season and All Saint’s Day — which for me would have been very lonely but for her and my two cats – and Austen and memories of the Austen movies.

Hattie Morahan as Elinor

Charity Wakefield as Marianne


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Ring-a-Ring-o’Roses (charcoal, watercolor, click to enlarge)

Woodland scene (1886, click to enlarge)

Dear friends and readers,

Forbes is the third woman I’ve chosen from this later Victorian into Edwardian/modern period (the other too Paula Modersohn-Becker and Helen Allingham) from out of eight thus far.

This is the first era of the impressionists, and Forbes came under the influence of James McNeill Whistler. Like his her landscapes are psychological projections. In her case her landscapes represent them as a child would see them, or suggestive of a particular story (Great Women Masters of Art, Vigue, 299). The use of children has another origin: like Allingham Forbes was an illustrator and had to come up with a solution to the repressive mores of the era which demanded she have a chaperon: she painted children.

I first came across her work at the National Museum of Women’s Art in DC where she seemed to fit into the Pre-Raphaelite mode: at the time her mural, Will-o’-the Wisp, was on a balcony, next to an ascending stairway:

(click to enlarge)

The painting connects her to Helen Allingham as Forbes is illustrating his symbolic poem, The Faeries, and

depicts the story of Bridget, who was stolen by the ‘wee’ folk and bought up to the mountain for seven years. When Bridget returned to her village, she found that her friends were all gone.
Set in autumn with bare trees silhouetted against a moonlit sky, the triptych’s dark rocks, swirling mist, and eerie glow in the sky convey a mystical quality to this scene featuring Bridge, the ‘stolen child … dead with sorrow … on a bed of flat leaves.’ In the left panel of the painting, little forest denizens, who in Irish legends often entice young girls with sensory pleasures, troop through the forest.
Will-o-the-Wisp displays the tenets of the Newlyn Art School in its meticulous portrayal of natural detail … the elaborately hand-wrought oak frame that incorporates sheets of copper embossed with intertwined branches imitat[e] the painted tree limbs … Lines from Allingham’s poem inscribed along the sides and bottom of the frame allude to the centuries old philosophical dialogue between the relative artistic merits of painting versus poetry (JP, Women Artists, Works from the National Museum, p 66)

Like Modersohn-Becker she was influenced by the avante-garde; for Forbes it was the work of Walter Sickert, a print-maker, that struck her.

Brighton Pierrots by Sickert (click to enlarge)

Julian Treuherz (Victorian Painting, pp 187-96) valuably reprints a number of late Victorian landscape and country painters unfamiliar to many people today, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Frank Bramley, Elizabeth’s husband, Stanhope Forbes, Clausen, Wm McTaggart, Atkinson Grimshaw), but she assimilates to these only in the naturalistic and seeming social-criticism phases of her work.

Jules Bastien-Lepage, Pauvre Fauvette (1881)

William McTaggart, The Storm (1890)

And of course her husband’s work influenced hers as hers did his:

A characteristic fisherman’s wife scene (click to enlarge)

Martin Hopkinson’s review of a recent biography of Forbes, Singing from the Walls: The Life and Art of Elizabeth Forbes by Judith Cook, Melissa Hardie and Christina Paine, suggests the wide range of influences and center of art Forbes attended (see The British Art Journal 2:3 (Spring/Summer 2001):108. It’s true that what’s depicted may seem insular English as in The Edge of the Wood (1894), a “love tryst” (Christopher Wood’s term, from Paradise Lost: Paintings of English Country Life and Landscape, 1850-1914, p 199) something from a Hardy novel


or ideas for a new BBC film adaptation of elegant rich Edwardians

The Minuet (1892)

but note the rich coloration of her Forbes’s art, her use of animals, the leaves, the wood; the second picture’s center is the child’s yellow dress, with triangular shades of light and three women watching over her while a fourth works near a window.

She is included in a few of my surveys of women painters, mentioned in others. Greer places her alongside Mary Cassatt and Laura Knight because she worked in “the fragile” (and demanding) “medium of watercolor, leaving grander genre and history compositions in oils to her better-known husband. Often the simplicity of her work seems slack and spurious, but occasionally, as in her pastel, The Kiss, some greater intensity swells the small statement” (Obstacle Race, p 113). What a put-down.

Those women who write about her art sympathetically say forget the fashionable masculine schools of the era (impressionism, Pre-Raphaelitism); to align Forbes with these or the anecdotal Victorian naturalistic depictions gets you nowhere. You have to stake out a terrain of femininity for her as much as her you do for Allingham and Modersohn-Becker. This seems to me right: like the woman authors of the 1930s who are marginalized (see Alison Light, Forever England) in favor of say Graham Greene or George Orwell because these women don’t fit in the political movements of the day, the marginalization of Allingham and Forbes is the result of looking for what the women don’t want to be there.

For myself I am deeply attracted to women artists of this era, and in Forbes’s case the melancholy and in her illustrations overt poetic feel. As a girl I learned to love Arthurian stories because of the illustrations that accompanied them in Edwardian books.


Elizabeth in 1882 by her husband, Stanhope Forbes

Born December 29, 1859, in Kingston, a suburb of Ottawa, Canada, daughter of a government official. At age 16, 1875, she went to the South Kensington School of Art to study; she returned home when her father died (presumably she lack funds to stay on). Two years later we find her in NYC under American influence while studying at the Art Students League, and then going on Munich (encouraged by William Merrit Chase). In 1882 she moved to Pont Aven (France) where she met leading “plein-air” painters, people working in smocks out-of-doors. Decisive, though. was the autumn she spent in Newlyn, Cornwall, with her mother, both for choice of subject and execution:

A Zandvoort Fishergirl (1884) (click to enlarge)

and because she met her husband, Stanford Alexander Forbes there. A yet stronger luminous quality and use color and light, respect for a humble occupation, and expressiveness has lead to critics regarding her Boy with the Hoe as one of her outstanding paintings:

Elizabeth Adela Forbes - Boy with a Hoe
(click to enlarge)

The couple married in 1891; she had a son in 1892. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book, King Arthur’s Wood, and edited a magazine called The Paper Chase. She had been doing etchings from a time in St Ives, but gave this form up. She also could no longer keep up the French connections directly. To support themselves she and her husband opened a school of art in Newlyn (1899), but her predilection for presenting her modernity as the working teacher began before that, as seen in her fine School is Out(1889):

(click to enlarge)

Deborah Cherry (Painting Women, pp 183-6) argues that Forbes’s images take issue with masculine definitions of what is modern art, she (in effect) refuses to imitate paintings focusing on “the commodification of [sexually available] women’s bodies.”

Blackberry gatherers

Pleasure has other sources too, like in this Christmas Scene

Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes (Canadian artist, 1859–1912) Christmas Tree

Here is her husband reading a very thick book:

Stanhope Alexander Forbes

Her first individual exhibit was held in 1900 at the Fine Arts Society of London; she was elected a member of the watercolor society; 1904 she had another individual exhibit at Leicester Gallery in London. She died at the relatively young age of 53 in 1912.



She is known for her depiction of children. Alone:

A street in Brittany


The Half-Holiday

Grouped in scenes:

Looking over a wall

In a wood

But there is equal adept depth and individual use of different painting techniques for adults:

A Fisherman (she seems usually to avoid the stereotype Cornish fishing and fishing equipment scenes

An Old Man

She did many and varied illustrations: Another Arthurian:


Some consciously sexy:


Take oh take those lips away (!)

She did sheer fairy tale:

The Pied Piper

Probably today she would be more admired for landscapes and simpler expressionism:

Across Mount Bay

A Holland scene: Volendam, from the Zuicende

[A] balanced, typically Dutch landscape … The spatial conceptions lends he work a homogeneous image constructed around the strong verticality of the canal and its banks… striking for its sense of depth, and the harmony of light and color, with a strong colorist atmosphere far removed from somber English landscapes. The force of light increases through the use of color, with luminous effects concentrated on the water in he canal, represented as a mirror reflecting the sky .. Vigue, p 304)

But she could be very Henry-Jamesian:


And some of her compositions defy allegoresis or ready comparisons as this of a country girl stroking a goat who is eating wildflowers from her flower-laden wheel barrow

Jean, Jeanne, Jeannette (1880) (click to enlarge)


She seems to love water-imagery and when not painting working women and children at play, she is a poet of painterly reverie.

Two self-portraits

In her studio, from the early phase of her career with her husband

Later in life


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Beside the Old Church Gate Farm, Smarden, Kent

Coming Events — a hand holds out a knife to the back …


Dear friends and readers,

As for this brief survey of the life and art of Helen Allingham (she excelled in watercolor, oil, illustration, drawing) is (unlike the previous woman artists I’ve covered), I’ve too many pictures to share, I start with a characteristic one, women at work, where line and color and stance make for a sense of vital life; Coming Events, her alert capturing of everyday life; and Torcello, her paintings from Italy, unhappily not well-known. (If you click on some of the images, they enlarge beautifully. Just try.)

Helen Allingham may be distinguished from the seven women artists not because she made a lot of money or was successful (several of them were), but because of the seven I’ve covered thus far, Allingham is the only one not included in any of my basic surveys, though mentioned once by Germaine Greer as a type of “the wrong women singled out for praise” (p. 87) by her contemporaries and “the masculine establishment.” Not much by the latter as she’s singularly absent from most surveys (those dubbed general when they are mostly by and about men), except those specializing in Victorian/Edwardian genre (e.g., Christopher Wood). She is apparently sometimes likened to Fred Walker who painted and drew socially realistic pictures, but I suggest her vein is much richer, more varied, women-centered (a visual equivalent of l’écriture-femme).

Justice is done to Allingham by Deborah Cherry, in her full, informative, insightful Painting Women: Victorian Women Artists (8 straight pages and many single and double-page entries); a concise, reproduction-laden informative study by Ina Taylor, Helen Allingham’s England: An Idyllic View of Rural Life (Devon: Webb and Brower, 1990) more than compensates. The pictures are what matter.

There is only one known self-depiction (and I’ve not got a good copy, so Borzello ignoring Helen in her Seeing Ourselves has some justification), but she painted others:

Thomas Carlyle, a close friend to her husband

Willam Allingham



and his favorite dog:


Then there are the riots of delicate watercolor:

Tig Bridge

Chase Cottage Ponds

She loved blue:

Girls on a Beach

Purple Bluebells

Cow Parsley

There is much that is not idyllic:

Digging Potatoes

The Governess and the Ayah on the beach — most of Allingham’s women are embedded among children

Or with farm animals, domestic pets (here cats), standing among ruins or by buildings they never choose:

Venetian Fruit Stall —

Another — we have the stains on the buildings, the fruits and vegetables real, how wretched she looks

She was a popular illustrator.

for her husband’s play, Ashby Manor (never produced)

and another of her brother, Henry Paterson, who died at 39 in an aslyum


Famously, she illustrated Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd (includes detailed discussions of some of the illustrations), and Hardy, then very unhappy with his wife, appears to have found in her a kindred soul. In 1874, He, she and Annie Thackeray dined together (1874) and he wrote this poem 40 years later on what he dreamed they might have known in marriage:

The Opportunity (For H.P)

Forty Springs back, I recall,
We met at this phase of the Maytime:
We might have clung close through all,
But we parted when died that daytime.

We parted with smallest regret;
Perhaps should have cared but slightly,
Just then, if we never met:
Strange, strange that we lived so lightly!

Had we mused a little space
At that critical date in the Maytime,
One life had been ours, one place,
Perhaps, till our long cold daytime.

— This is a better thing For thee,
O man! what ails it?
The tide of chance may bring Its offer;
but nought avails it!

The line “strange, strange that we live so lightly” deeply suggestive about the nature of life

Helen Allingham, in her later years, widowed

There are many online biographies, from art galleries, to an official society website

What to say in brief? She was born into a comfortable middle-class family, her father a physician, and a mother with talent for art (shelved to provide a dowry for her husband to start his practice, to have 7 children), but part of the Unitarian dissenting world (so her father had hard times building a practice), with an aunt, Laura Hertford, a successful professional painter whom she emulated. Her father died relatively young (diphtheria , a harrowing time), and Helen experienced the necessity of making money. Her talent was cultivated: her Paterson aunts sent her to the Birmingham School of Design (studying drawing, painting, perspective, practical geometry, costume, and art-teaching).

By age 18 she is living in London, with a place at the Royal Female School of Art (learning anatomy), and supporting herself by jobs as an engraver, illustrator for Once a Week (among other magazines) where she learned to produce quickly:

Pencil Sketch for a woodcut

A transformative event was her meeting with William Allingham (1874), originally from Ireland, had worked for Irish Customs and Excise for 20 years (he was 24 years older), wrote poetry and journalism, friends with Leigh Hunt, Tennyson, Browning, the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood; he especially venerated Carlyle; they may have met at the theater and when he was hired as editor of Fraser’s (for 400£ a year), they married (1874). She worked at her career (remained convinced he had the superior talent, just not recognized), had children:

Her daughter, Margaret

They went to Margate and Surrey for holidays, but when Carlyle died, they moved to Surrey for a country life, of work for her — she loved to go and paint the seaside:

the Allinghams’ Surrey home

A Seaside study

At the shore

1889 they lived in London some of the time, and had set up another home in Hampstead, with new and old friends (next to the Martineaus), more memberships in art societies, before he died in 1889. She was a widow for 37 years, filling her life with intense activity. She had to support her household, but she also returned to her husband’s home in Ireland (acting out what she conceived was her husband’s desire he never got to do) where she painted dozens of watercolors for once capturing the poverty and bleakness of what she saw in the houses themselves.

Ballyshannon, 1891

These years see her moving into more large landscapes

Hindhead, Surrey

She traveled to Venice in 1901 and 1902 as part of attempts to break away from her usual subjects. Later in life she moved into landscape painting.

A study of Aire, St Maclou, in Rouen, done on the way to Venice — brilliance of line design, perspectives

A different color palette for Italy — gorgeous marble, cascading flowers, notice the woman and child with basketed flowers — are they transferring these to a husband/father to use with his customers or selling them or is that another woman selling flowers?

Hers was not a life of tragedy, but hard work, in a changing world; she was on the side of preservation, and there seems no doubt that her exclusion of the ubiquitious abysmal poverty and miseries of the era did not allow her work to be part of needed economic, social, political reform. She had a close friendship with Gertrude Jekyll (a career in photography, studying vernacular buildings and celebrating crafts), and Kate Greenaway, and after 1890 enabled one another (by going together) to paint more subjects, in more places, though her times painting alongside Greenaway didn’t last (their work was to unalike):

‘it was in the spring of 1888 that we went out painting together in the copses near Witley and became really friends …. One day in the autumn of 1889 [when they were neighbours in Hampstead] we went to Pinner [where from the cancelled manuscript of Persuasion we know Jane Austen meant Anne Elliot] together on an exploring expedition for subjects and were delighted with some of the old cottages we saw there. I had been pressing her ever since our spring time together at Witley to share with me some of the joys of painting out of doors. Another day we went farther afield – to Chesham and Amersham . . . . In the spring of 1890 I took my children to Freshwater, Isle of Wight and found ms for us near Kate. She and I went out painting together daily, either to some of the pretty old thatched cottages around Farringford or to the old dairy in the grounds …. During the summer of that year (1890) we continued our outdoor work together, generally taking an early train from Finchley Road to Pinner, for the day. She was always scrupulously thoughtful for the convenience and feelings of the owners of the farm or cottage we wished to paint, with the consequence that we were made welcome to sit in the garden or orchard where others were refused admittance.
Though we often sat side by side, painting the same object (generally silently – for she was a very earnest, hard worker – and perhaps I was, too), it seemed to me that there was little likeness between our drawings — specially after the completion in the studio. But she was one of the most sensitive of creatures and I think she felt it might be wiser for both of us to discontinue the practice of working from the same subjects …. (Cherry, p 177)

So what is this world of women in rural and eastern England:

An earlier picture: a version of her cradling her son, Henry


Women also hung out the wash in Verona

This is a woman gathering sticks and wood for the fire for winter

A dreaming young girl

Worn old woman

Valleywood Farm — lost in the middle distance

Buildings inside and out:

The Interior of Cheyne House (Carlyle’s)

Stanfield House, Hampstead — stodgy and respectable

Aldworth — covered in flowery ivy, this mansion of the wealthy

A fantasia of St Mark’s Cathedal, Venice, or as pastoral, Santa Maria:


More typically:


A big and old tree: Old Beech Tree

She loved gardening and has many still lifes of flowers and gardens, hills and meadows:


Blackdown, Sussex (I use this as my computer wallpaper)


Allingham’s best known book is The Cottage Homes of England; she saw herself as recording a vanishing way of life, and Christopher Wood suggests we should see her art as the visual equivalent of Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford. Deborah Cherry argues that Helen Allingham’s pictures present female sexuality centrally in discreet (coded) ways, and were an influence for good from the respect they showed for women’s ordering, work, and past places and ties too.

I’ll end on a poem by Amy Clampitt, which while intended to characterize “George Eliot Country” and written for Eliot’s first magisterial biographer, Gordon Haight (1901-1985) seems to me to capture the same world as Allingham:

From this Midland scene – glum slagheaps,
barge canals, gray sheep, the vivid overlap
of wheatfield and mustard hillside like
out-of-season sunshine, the crabbed silhouette
of oak trees (each joint a knot, each knot
a principled demurral – tough, arthritic, stubborn
as the character of her own father) – fame,
the accretion of a Pyrrhic happiness, had
exiled her to London, with its carriages
and calling cards, its screaming headaches.

Griff House – dear old Griff, she wistfuly
apostrophized it – in those days still intact,
its secrets kept, has now been grafted to a
motel-cum-parking-lot beside the trunk road,
whose raw, ungainly seam of noise cuts through
the rainy solace of Griff Lane: birdsong,
coal smoke, the silvered powderings of
blackthorn, a flowering cherry tree’s
chaste flare; the sludge-born, apoplectic
screech of jet aircraft tilting overhead.

The unmapped sources that still fed nostalgia
for a rural childhood survive the witherings
of retrospect: the look of brickyards,
stench of silk mills, scar of coal mines,

the knife of class distinction: wall-enclosed,
parkland-embosomed, green-lawned Arbury Hall,
fan-vaulting’s stately fakeries, the jewel-
stomachered, authentic shock of Mary Fitton and
her ilk portrayed, the view of fishponds – school
and role model of landed-proprietary England.

Born in the year of Peterloo, George Eliot
had no illusions as to the expense of such
emoluments. Good society (she wrote) floated
on gossamer wings of light irony, required no less
than an entire, arduous national existence,
condensed into unfragrant, deafening factories,
cramped into mines, sweating at furnaces, or
scattered in lonely houses on the clayey or chalky
cornland… where Maggie Tulliver, despairing
of gentility, ran off to join the gypsies.

Violets still bloom beside the square-towered
parish church where Mary Anne was christened;
the gnashed nave of Coventry fills up with rain
(another howling doodlebug of fright hurls itself
over); the church from which, refusing to commit
the fiction of a lost belief in One True Body,
she stayed away, upholds the fabric in which her
fictions, perdurable now, cohere like fact: Lydgate
still broods, Grandcourt still threatens, and
in Mrs Transome disappointment turns to stone.

One last connection, back to Charlotte Smith with Near Beachy Head:


Allingham’s is a world of women at work, women surrounded by children, and their work. She seeks them out, she records them and celebrates their creations, adds to these:

A Side Canal in Venice (notice the woman high up behind the arch banging out the wet or dirt from a pink cloth of some type

Mrs Eden’s Garden, Venice


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Demelza in characteristic hat delighted to look at a poster for a troop of actors come to Truro

Dear friends and readers,

As Anibundel suggests, the way to understand and enjoy costume dramas is to look at the costumes. What more indicative than hats?

Spurred on by her fun discoveries of who wears what hat in the 2015 Poldark, I looked at the state of millinery for Graham’s first two novels 40 years ago and found the costume-designers included many more working and lower class head scarves, mob caps, and simple bonnets and flat hats with ribbons, and specific headdresses for ritual occasions.

For her wedding day (and possibly traveling) Keren (Sheila White) has decorated a simple bonnet with lace

Our female characters moved to forms of cloth hat to signal religious sects. When it came to creating beauty, glamour, suggesting upper class decor, much more attention was paid to wigs (big hair which blended fashions of the 1970s with those of the 1780s through 90s) than hats, but these covered a wider range, from pancake, to wide brimmed decorated, to tricorn, and simply (on your wig, threaded in), feathers, woven braids, and the rare jewel. There were also scarves which fit into political headgear which may be a blend of Jacobin, Cornish and mining community.

What they all show is that in comparison to 40 years on, the earlier series was interested in historical accuracy, yet made no attempt to film and showcase hats separately; each and every still shows a woman character in the midst of doing something that is part of the story or a product of their inner life. They signal class, politics, the personality of the character, and mood of the story line.

This is for those interested in how the 18th century has been depicted and love the old familiar pictures I hope seen anew.

The first hat we see is a respectable traveling wide-brim with ribbon under the chin:

This actress would play Jane Eyre (1983, with Timothy Dalton)

This opening Part 1 (1783), coresponding to the revenant’s return of Ross Poldark, runs the gamut of Verity with her characteristic mob cap:


not much different from the servant’s, Mrs Tabb:


to the high elegance of Elizabeth’s bridal veil:


and Jinny’s imitation (bridal veil on limited budget):


And this range is echoed in Part 2, where we move from another kind of head cover, the scarf tied behind the head at the nape of the neck, with cloth fanny out behind, signalling Jinny’s place in the political spectrum:


We see it women of Jinny’s class, but not character, at a fair, in the streets:



And Keren boasts a headscarf too:


Here is another house mob cap, more elaborate as worn by Verity as she asks Ross to help her see Blamey regularly:


Demelza graduates to her first hat showing she is growing up in Part 3 (1785 or to)


echoed by Prudie’s similar number as she watches Demelza scrub a table:


For outdoors, against the wind, and to protect her ears, Demelza in a sturdy kerchief bringing out lunch to Ross and Jud in the fields.

Jud snatches an apple

Our costume designers turned the pages of their script until they reached the death of Charles Poldark requiring a funeral required elaborate headdresses from the women, of which I choose just two from our central heroines:



The latter has grown intensely restless, dissatisfied, and soon after tells Ross so in an elegant wide-brim with ribbon under her chin, matching her suit-like outfit:


Meanwhile Demelza had fled home to her methodist step-mother:


who must’ve made it clear that similar attire for the head was expected of her stepdaughter:


Although the stepmother knows by this time that Demelza is with child (by Ross), Elizabeth is still dreaming of running off, and wears a fetching triangle for outdoor love-making (matching the same outfit, thrift, thrift):


A new book, Demelza, and our heroine has had her baby and there is a christening. We get some elegant headgear now:

See what you missed, Ross

A sweeter lace wide-brim for Verity reminds me of 1950s Easter hats

Unfortunately some of the women use their hats to exclude others, to crowd out and stigmatize those without these or who have not their confidence:


Following the debacle of this christening, the married lady takes heart and plots to help her kind cousin-in-law meet Blamey once again. They go off to shop: Verity in a small pancake, and Demelza in a delicious concoction of pancake, frills and kerchief:


Some time later our Cinderella goes to a ball, alas hatless, ribbonless, but not Lady Brodrugan:

who sports feathers and discreet jewels in a high class wig

Margaret with less money, makes do with a large white feather

and a clutch of pearls around the neck

Verity has gone all out (expecting Blamey):


There is too much bankruptcy and trouble to foster much millinery in the last parts of Demelza, so we have to make do with troubled women in the street:


Lady Brodrugan at Christmas in emerald green tricorn (surely meant ironically):


concluding with Demelza in one of her blends of Jacobin, working class and Cornish scarf:

plain cloth version — there is this lace one too:


After all, it’s called costume drama first and foremost, no?


P.S. Next up wigs, and what the men wore on their heads.

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Dear friends and readers,

I want again to report on, share part of a review of a book, this time because I suspect its title, Sentimental Memorials, as well as the marmoreal cover illustration, will put potential readers off. Norma Clarke’s own books are uniformly insightful and informative, and her description of Sodeman’s book is to be trusted (appeared in TLS, July 31, 2015, but not on-line). Clarke suggests that Sodeman shows a direct line from 18th century novels by women to those of women writers of the later 20th and early 21st century. Sodeman discovers

in the novels of Sophia Lee, Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson a concern with the status of their own writings at a time when literature was becoming professionalized and when the novel, increasingly popular, became downgraded as genre. Women established the new genre of historical fiction, and left to friends the task of including them in their histories, while in fact the participation of women in popular genres was then and still is seen as an embarrassment.

But the most popular works offered debased forms of excessive emotionalism or action-adventure. By contrast, says Clarke,

Sodeman imagines the generation of women writing and publishing in the 1780s and 90s as sharing “a vibrant memory of elite women’s literary accomplishments … while becoming aware that their own efforts were culturally devalued, and that history-writing and and canon-formation were leaving women out. Frances Brooke in 1785 complained that “the road of literary fame” was closed to most women. They were not included in the multi-volume collections; they were not being memorialized. Sentimental Memorials rescues each of its subjects not from obscurity, for they are now much studied, but from negative characterization.

More profoundly, she argues that the establishment of the literary canon itself depended on a sentimental reading of the past shaped by illusions of historical recovery. Historians like Hume and Robertson used the devices of sentimental fiction to fill gaps, inviting readers to imagine what Mary Queen of Scots felt, for example, as she left France. Antiquarians found or forged manuscripts and built invented pasts on these “authentic” fragments. The “found” manuscript was already part of gothic convention when Ann Radcliffe made powerful use of it in The Romance of the Forest (1791). Jane Austen gets a little slap for missing the point in Northanger Abbey: Radcliffe was critiquing a device, not simple-mindedly deploying it to create terror.

Sodeman asks us to consider her subjects as women who possessed a heightened awareness of the historicity of forms, and of the likely obsolescence of their own fictions. It is an ingenious way of reclaiming elements — such as Radcliffe’s use of interpolated lyrics, Smith’s repeated appeals to her readers to sympathize with her as a victim of the legal system — that have dissatisfied stem critics. It leads to a subtle blend of textual criticism with literary history and single-author study.

Sentimental Memorials … takes the ephemerality of sentimental fiction and discovers in it a concern for enduring reputation. It examines the uses of autobiographical detail in imaginative prose that depicts national and international concerns while at the same time conveying personal truths that have public meanings … Sodeman is steeped in the critical literature about realist fiction and its relation to facts or history

There are some flaws:

[Sodeman] has little to say about the longer history of women’s writers; and although she quotes Clifford Siskin’s formulation, the “Great Forgetting,” she manages when discussing Mary Robinson as “the English Sappho” to make no mention of Aphra Behn, the most famous “Sappho” in the English tradition… Similarly, Sodeman explains Ann Radcliffe’s interpolated lyrics as a strategy to accentuate artifice and intensify feeling without indicating that many readers would already have associated the device with the sentimental figure of an oppressed woman: Radcliffe was following a model set in the mid-century by Laetitia Pilkington in her Memoirs. In the “Great Forgetting”, it was the so-called scandalous women who were most forgotten. Their works tended not to be realist fictions but memoirs, stories of lived lives that were compelling because they were real.

Clarke concludes:

Writers such as Smith and Robinson owed as much to this tradition as they did to realist fiction. Questions about fictionality, truth, the status of individual experience and the forms in which it was received and believed were crucial to memoir. So, too, for readers, was the mingling of wonder and scepticism. The vibrant memory” of women writers in the ’80s and 90s operated on literary materials that have yet to receive the attention that has been paid to realist fiction and forms which, as seller lists demonstrate …

are far from obsolete.


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Woman Knitting (n.d.)

Dear friends and readers,

For our fifth subject, we have a woman painter about whom little is known. Her portraits are not of upper-class people, she does not reach any lessons, nor attempt to entertain or amuse. Her paintings fall under the rubric of “absorption” so long ago described by Michael Fried (“Absorption: A Master Theme in French 18th century painting, ECS, 9:2 [1975-76]:139-77); by contrast, one could also say (as Nochlin does) that Duparc’s gift was for “the fleeting moment of evocative expression.” Duparc is said to have died leaving 41 paintings in her studio; only four works are surely attributed to her. Thus we are fortunate in that my sources provide 5 reproductions, though two in black-and-white, and one doubtful. I choose her for the reason I started this project: I love what I have been able to see. She has deep feeling for the life and humanity of ordinary people.

My favorite is “La tricoteuse” above. Those who’ve seen her paintings testify to a “vivid immediacy.” I see the canvas breathing with flesh and blood-filled life. Just look at her soft-cloth working class clothes; her full body; the flesh tones match the tones of her clothes in another reproduced version. Duparc’s work (like Rosalba Carriera, but with less justification) has been likened to Chardin’s; to Greuze (but there is nothing salacious or titillating, no voyeurism); there is likeness to Nicolas Bernard Lepicie, only his subjects pose in front of us.

A Man with a sack of nuts (L’homme a la besace) who looks out at us shyly, with a self-contained self-deprecating yet slightly sad expression on his face; he is no longer young (n.d)

She was born in Murcia, Spain on October 15, 1726. Her father, Antoine Duparc was a sculptor who had come from Marseilles in 1720, married Gabrielle Negrela; they returned to Marseilles in 1730. Francoise was probably educated in her father’s studio. A couple of sources say she studied under Jean Baptiste van Loo (1684-1768), who worked in Aix-en-Provence in 1731, had studied in Paris and Italy, was in Marseilles twice (1735-36, 1742-45). However if so, she followed a different path; the story that Van Loo thought a painting by her was a copy of one by him is told by C.F. Achard in a book about illustrious men from the provinces. She is said to have moved from Marseilles to Paris, lived there with a sister, Josephe-Antonia, also a gifted painter. She appears to have had a brother of whom she was very fond who died young. Rumor also hath it she visited London, and there are records of exhibits of 3 paintings by Mrs Duparc in London in 1763, and again in 1766. But in both cases solid evidence is lacking and is contradictory. There is a record of her again in Marseilles in 1771, that she was made a member of the local academy in 1776; made her will in April 1778, when she is described as in bad bodily health. She died October 11, age 52.

Duparcs’ extant paintings combine portraiture with genre (domestic occupation). First, she Duparc endows her figures with great personal dignity. The seller of tisane (herbal tea, n.d.) looks at us as she works with a metal strainer:


The “Old Woman” (n.d.) turns to the right, crosses her reddened arms and hands; she might be a servant, with a natural reserve. In all these paintings there is great care in transmitting a quality of thick cloth.


In Billioud’s discussion he tries to make neat patterns of complementary iconography (old and young), but from these four it does not seem to me there is any attempt at neat parallels and contrasts.

The source for what is known is Joseph Billioud, “Un peintre des types populaires: Francoise Duparc de Marseilles (1726-1778), Gazette des beaux-arts, 20 (1938):173-84; a secondary source is the enthusiastic Philippe Auquier, “An Eighteenth Century Painter: Francoise Duparc,” Burlington Magazine, 6 (1905):477-78 (much gush and some leads, meaning paintings of English noblemen cited, but the evidence presented suggests they are not hers!). My main sources for reliable information, images and commentary thus far come from Ann Harris and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550-1950 (pp. 171-73); Karen Peterson and J.J. Wilson, Women Artists (p 50); Nancy Heller, Women Artists.

Not unrelated: Maureen Mulvihill has alerted me to a coming conference on early modern women artists (scroll down for English; reprinted in my comments).


The “Head of a Young Woman” is in poor condition, and used to be attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze; Roger Gaud attributed it to Duparc. The lighting, facing frontwards, quietude seem like Duparc’s others, but the direct gaze where she accosts us seems to me more like Greuze. She is another figure who looks out at us shyly, but smiles.



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Alice Vikander as Vera Brittain bringing a telegram to Miranda Richardson as Miss Lorimer telling of Miss Lorimer’s brothers’ death (2015 Testament of Youth)

Dear Friends and readers,

Precisely a month ago, I wrote a blog on a fine documentary about the fashion designer and collector, Iris Apfel, promising to write blogs on those women’s films this summer that I managed to see. Defined narrowly as a film made by women, one where a major figure in the film, director, screenplay writer, the majority of the producers are women, I’ve only watched three thus far. Iris Apfe is a documentary by Albert Maysles. Defined broadly as a film deeply empathetic to women’s points of views with an admirable likable heroine at its center I’m into my sixth.

Iris, promotional shot for her outside the movie

On my life-writing political blog, Under the Sign of Sylvia II, I dealt (however briefly) with a superb re-make of Far from the Madding Crowd, with Cary Mulligan in the key role of Bathseeba derives from a novel by Thomas Hardy.

Carey Mulligan as Bathseeba with Jessica Barden as Liddy, her lady’s-maid, servant, helpmeet (2015 Far from the Madding Crowd)

The screenplay is by David Nicholls and the director Thomas Vinterberg, but what distinguishes the film is its presentation of Bathseeba as a pro-active competent intelligent entrepreneurial farmer-businesswoman; she is not a semi-sullen sex kitten (as was Julie Christie in part). I’ll Dream of You, featuring Blythe Danner, also has a male director and writer, Brett Haley and Mark Brasch, producers Haley and Rebecca Green, but its deep empathy with the lives of older women living alone, comic and realistic makes it a film whose audience is women.

A semi-comic serious scene of Carol with her support-group friends

Izzy and I saw another re-make this time of a 1970s TV BBC mini-series, Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain into a two-hour cinema film, comes closer to a true woman’s film as its scriptwriter is Juliette Towhidi, who was the central force in Calendar Girls and Death comes to Pemberley, not to omit The Jane Austen Book Club, from Karen Joy Fowler’s novel. It was deeply moving and I hope many people will see it and think of (or go see in order to frame the movie accurately) Towdhidi’s previous films.

I am hampered by my lack of memory of the TV mini-series in 1975 and lack of stills: it had 5 parts and was 275 minutes long, and I remember was much admired at the time — as the book is a masterpiece and it was a faithful progressive 1970s good film. This one was a mere 100 minutes. That a film is shorter need not make it inferior. The new Far from the Madding Crowd is much better than the old one; the 2007 Room with a View (by Andrew Davies) only some 95 minutes, a TV adaptation in some ways also better than the much lauded (perhaps overpraised) lush sensual Merchant-Ivory one, despised the especially effective performances of Denholm Elliot, Daniel Day-Lewis and Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helena Bonham Carter.

The young men voluntarily going off to be “heroes” — only one of the young male characters will return

The older mini-series focused on Vera’s career, her trouble getting to Oxford, and while it was filled with grief, much of the hard experience of war was put off-stage; it was decorous, discreet, repressed. The 2014 Testament of Youth, directed by James Kent, produced by Rosie Alison, is too romantic: but I suggest it be seen as expressionistic in the way of Towhidi’s Death Comes to Pemberley, the contrasts of lush green world and romance at the opening are meant symbolically with the wasteland and horror of the later parts, but it does work.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictures: Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain - Photo Credit: Laurie Sparham   Sony Pictures Classics Release.
There are many portrait shots of all the characters and landscapes of war, trains, devastation and impossibly idyllic green springs which then turn to autumn wastelands

Miranda Richardson as the Headmistress of Somerville is memorable. Anna Chancellor is there as Vera’s financee’s mother; Emily Watson plays Alice’s mother. Cyclical structure, women’s imagery, depth of emotional charge, all are here in all three. The new one is vitriolically anti-war. Indeed I am not sure that if you have recently experienced the death of a beloved person which you feel is the result of social neglect, norms, someone thrown away, this film might not leave you distraught. Both Izzy and I were near that towards the end. But it is also cathartic, as Alice Vikander turns her life around to work as an pacifist. It’s not a great film but made explicitly appropriate to our world of ceaseless imperialistic war today.

Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery has just about vanished after a week in my local moviehouses. It never played in DC itself and turned up in only one art cinema in Northern Virginia. I don’t know how it’s lasted in other areas of the US but if at all like Tamara Drewe, directed by Stephen Frears, screenplay Moira Buffini, produced by Alison Owen (which also played only in one art cinema in Northern Virginia at thee time), Gemma Bovery has hardly been shown and then vanished.

So my recommendation is probably to try it on Netflix, through streaming or a DVD. Like Tamara Drewe which is a re-write or updating of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, Gemma Bovery is a rewrite of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and the result has been that the few American reviewers who noticed it, have disliked it as not sufficiently like Flaubert. Since it’s based on Posy Simmonds’s rewrite, that’s not surprising. What did surprise me when I went back to Simmons’s graphic novel is how little it is like the mood of Simmonds’s book, so perhaps this stubborn mistake is just as well.

Fontaine did take over plot points (like Gemma gains and loses weight): the house in France and much else tries to realize the cartoons of Simmonds’s graphic novel

In a way as to major story line, it is more like what people remember Flaubert’s novel for: a woman bored by her husband, takes unworthy lovers and ends up dead.

Neil Schneider is just one of three drop-dead beautiful males who turn out to be worthless (he plays the Rudolph role from Flaubert’s novel)

Only in the film the framing is a POV from Martin Joubert, a French actor Fabrice Luchini who watches from his shop and himself throws a central wrench in the proceedings out of jealousy and as far as the film allows us to see Gemma has no romantic delusions. Posy Simmons’s book is a deeply melancholy one with (to me) a thoroughly unpleasant heroine surrounded by awful people; Joubert (with a different first name) is deeply remorseful; the only bearable character is Charles, an underdog type. The book is as bitter as Flaubert’s novel ultimately is, only not misogynistic: everyone is an egoistic ultimately mean person, all masquerading as ever so liberal, arty, but above all (what counts) upper class in habitas, objects, taste.

Fontaine’s film is comic, ironic: she omits the first half of the novel which explains why Gemma and Charlie have come to France (so Gemma can escape Charlie’s first wife’s demands and her children and her own memories of a affair with one Larry, a vicious handsome type who is of course successful in the world).

Gemma and Joubert (Gemma Atherton also played Tamara Drewe)

The film might have been much better if it was as bitter as the book but then no one anywhere would have gone to see it. Instead it presents these awful people neutrally, blandly, and makes Gemma still an utterly irresponsible selfish woman artist through the perspective of a now self-deprecating lecherous Joubert who sees the incongruities of what’s happening, is wry about the motives of the English people who live upper class lives in picturesque rural France. Enough of Posy Simmons comes through — but I’m not sure the effect is not both misogynistic (the other women of the film are jealous and spiteful and cold) and far from delighted by super-handsome rakish males or older lecherous ones. It’s almost misanthropic which is what I thought Flaubert’s cool book ulimately was. It could be said Charlie is again the only endurable character except here he is, as in Simmons, useless except for his income and as a person who restores works of art. Why anyone would want to restore them for people who are so worthless inwardly is a question one might ask after watching the film. A number of the characters are involved in kitsche art: Gemma restores old houses to look like 19th century artisans’ huts for huge amounts of money.

It’s a woman’s satire, and (as a couple of feminist critics of Austen argued in the 1970s, e.g. Alison Sulloway of JA and the Province of Womanhood), is not directed at large “universal norms,” but empirical, revealing the hellhole of meaningless at the of core of daily behaviors.

I saw it with my friend Sophie who is Parisian French, and she said it captured some absurd norms of French life and laughed away again and again. The photography was so alluring, shots capturing painting like scenes; it ends on a still on a window looking out, a long-standing woman artist motif.

Keeley Hawes as Lady Agnes just brought her baby home, Alex Kingston the new half-sister-in-law (2012 U/D, scripted and created by Heidi Thomas) — babies and children play a large role in both episodes I cover

I am probably cheating to include the second season of Upstairs Downstairs, the 40 year re-boot (to use Anibundel’s contemporary term) of the 1970s once much beloved Upstairs Downstairs, conceived by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins. We are three years since. But I am experiencing deep pleasure and new insight over the past few weeks by watching this new series and have already praised strongly the new version, and summarized Giselle Bastin’s film study (in Taddeo and Leggott’s anthology of film criticism, Upstairs and Downstairs: British Costume Drama) where Bastin finds series excellent: it deals openly and directly with the Nazi politics of the era. She says it has been much misunderstood because it’s not comic, but serious, realistic melodrama insofar as its genre allows. Tonight I want to endorse Heidi Thomas’s re-make by agreeing with Bastin. As with The Bletchey Circle (Agent Carter, with Hayley Attwell) had a close call for next season), a real disservice to womens’ films was done when the new Upstairs Downstairs was cancelled because the standard for ratings is not just very high, but there is a strong prejudice against women’s aesthetics and norms.

I’ve watched only the first two episodes of the six of the second season but since I’m trying to keep this blog as a concise survey, this helps my purpose as I’ve seen enough to recognize the high quality of the second season. It takes much further the characteristics of the first and moves away from the original 40 year old show altogether. First by unhappy chance Jean Marsh (Rose Buck) had a real heart attack and had to remove herself from the series, and with her removal, Atkins decided to go too. No longer are we remembering 40 years ago.

Mr Pritchard (Adrian Scarborough) has had another life beyond making sure the dinner proprieties are kept up

In the first episode of the second season the attitude of mind is seriously anti-war at the same time as all justice is done to a critique of why Chamberlain gave in. It’s done through having the central character (Keeley Hawes, very good — she is the core of the two hours), having her baby and having two young children; plus in the house they have a Downs Syndrome young woman brought in as a half-sister. They really did hire a Downs Syndrome girl – the way on Breaking Bad the son was a disabled actor. Alex Kingston joins the cast as a half-sister of Atkins (replacing her as an older woman in the house). The thematic center is a justification of conscientious objection (though the story of the new butler who turns out to have been a conscientious objector in WW10 which offers a juxtaposing perspective on the critique of Chamberlain (against war as war). Tragically the monkey left to the protection of Amanjit Singh (Art Malik) is killed because people have been so frightened by the propaganda about chemical warfare (a footman uses the poor animal as a guinea pig).


The second episode takes us into Hitler Germany’s betrayal of the peace pact, the story of an attempt to rescue German Jewish children, again features the Nazi leanings of the aristocracy and Duke of Kent (Blake Ritson plays the part) and brings back Claire Foy (Lady Percy) as disaffected, rootless, exploitative of servants, who I can see is nonetheless going to be a bitter tragic figure. This time the cook-housekeeper Mrs Thackeray (Anne Reid) attempts to re-join her family and finds as an older woman she is obsolete, not wanted, will be taken advantage of, and returns to her job for independence and appreciation of her art.

By contrast as the Indian ex-servant of Maud, Lady Holland, he tries to enact values he associates with her

There is a feast of films made by women, dealing intelligently with women’s issues, endorsing their lives, using a woman’s aesthetic available this summer. Don’t miss them. For myself later tonight I’ll be watching the third episode of the second season of the 2012 Upstairs Downstairs.


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