Saturday, February 11, 2017

Period Dramas: Poldark

Period Dramas:


based on the series by Winston Graham

starring: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jack Farthing, Heida Reed, Kyle Soller, Luke Norris, Gabriella Wilde

This review is in case you are not on GoodReads or live under a rock.
All pictures © 2015 PBS/Masterpiece

The setting: Cornwall, 1783. The hero, Ross Poldark, returns from fighting the rebels in America with a nasty scar on his face and a limp. He barely made it out alive but the thought of his sweetheart, Elizabeth Chynoweth, has carried him through. She promised to be true to him and so he believes. Sadly for Ross, he returns home to the news his father has died, his mine is closed, the estate is in ruins and his sweetheart is promised to another! Elizabeth is betrothed to none other than Ross' cousin Francis, who has always been like a brother to him.

Ross has no choice but to pick up his life and try to forget Elizabeth, but the Poldarks never forget. When the villagers on his property are starving, Ross seeks to redress the wrongs and thwart the wealthy bankers who own the local gentry, sometimes running afoul of the law. Ross' brashness and hot temper are softened by Demelza Carne, a miner's daughter he rescues and later marries. Demelza's good sense and loving nature keep Ross from becoming a wastrel like his father. However, the specter of the Warleggans, a family of blacksmiths turned bankers, is always in the background. Tragedy and numerous setbacks threaten to derail the happiness of the Poldarks.

Meanwhile, Ross' old friend, Dr. Dwight Enys moves back to his native Cornwall to treat the miners. Full of scientific theory and radical ideas, he quickly endears himself to the miners. His greatest vice is his kind heart and it threatens to ruin his career or advance it, depending on who you ask. 

This series has something for everyone. There's lots of drama, pent of anger, fighting, ROMANCE (sizzling and sweet at the same time. The love scenes are fade to black), shirtless scything and shirtless mining, drama, smuggling, class consciousness, social justice and did I mention romance? Also, Cornwall is as much a character as the humans. The incredible sweeping views of the ocean and the hills make me want to travel there and see the wild beauty of Cornwall. 

The hero, Ross, is wild and unpredictable. He has a hot temper but it is usually expressed when facing the unjust English laws of the time. He picked up some radical ideas in America and also feels a strong sense of guilt that his father failed his duty as a landowner to protect his people. Ross is brooding, moody, sometimes romantic and always passionate. He's had his neck in the noose a few times too many for me. Would I want to marry him? No way. Especially not after what happens in Season 2. He's too hot tempered for me. Would I want a wild fling with him? Oh my heavens yes! 
Francis Poldark

Francis Poldark, Ross' cousin, is the opposite of Ross. He's a gentleman born and bred. He doesn't take much interest in running the estate and feels overshadowed by his more proactive cousin. Francis also doesn't appreciate his wife and sister. He becomes an angry, embittered man. Frankly, I would call him a weenie and go back to my parents if I were Elizabeth. Scandal or no scandal!

Dr. Dwight Enys, the village doctor is my favorite of the male characters. He longs to do good in the community despite not making much money. He is always fair and uses the most scientific methods available to him (which will still make any modern person cringe). His biggest fault is his big heart. It's his one weakness and causes him some problems. 
Dwight Enys

George Warleggan is the villain of the piece. A grandson of a blacksmith and nephew of a wealthy banker, he reminds me a lot of Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter. George and Francis go way back and are friends despite the class difference. Ross, however, and George have never been friends. George feels contempt for the gentry because they can't manage their money and feels enmity for Ross who never lets George forget where he comes from. George lacks the sense of noblesse oblige the gentry are born with. His Uncle Cary, a true villain, has taught him that money is everything. If someone can't pay their debts, cut them loose. It's pay or lose with the Warleggans. They have no compassion and no sense of the duty that drives Ross. George just doesn't understand Ross and lives to thwart Ross and bring him down. House of Warleggan or Slytherin House?

George Warleggan

Jud Paynter, Ross's manservant, a drunken old man, provides the comic relief. Jud is always drunk and manages to do a minimum amount of work. He is forever quarreling with his wife Trudie but it is meant to be funny. Jud is very self serving but manages to be a favorite character anyway. There is a part in season 2 that is especially funny. 
Jud and Prudie Paynter

The women fare better in this series than the men.Demelza is my favorite character. 
he's sweet but also sassy. She's tough, patient and loving. She has the loveliest smile and most gentle heart. All the men love her and worship her, except for one, some of the time. I especially love her when she's sassy. She's so good for Ross. She is the perfect wife for him. She compliments his dark, brooding nature with her sunny nature and never fails to tell him when he's done something stupid. Demelza is a woman of her time and doesn't seem terribly anachronistic for who she is. 


I also love sweet Verity, Francis's older sister. She's sweet and loving in a more gentle sort of way than Demelza. Verity has been running the household and the farm since her mother died. Her father and brother fail to appreciate her. She longs for someone to love her and a family of her own. I really felt for her and am rooting for her to be happy. Ruby Bentall is familiar from Lark Rise to Candleford and The Paradise. She finally moves beyond giddy, foolish young girl to a major part of substance and she does not disappoint. Of all the characters, I think she best matches the description in the books.


Great-Aunt Agatha Poldark provides comic relief and foreshadowing. She is an old lady from a long ago generation when society was less restrained. She is proud of her lineage and her family name and wants to see it continued. Aunt Agatha reads tarot cards, issues dire premonitions and tosses out wisecracks. I love her! 

Caroline Penvenen, a young heiress who appears in Season 2, is also one of my favorite characters. At first she seems young, spoiled and immature but she grows a lot. She knows her own mind and longs for freedom to choose her own husband. However, she isn't all that rebellious. She loves her uncle and doesn't wish to cause a breach in the family, not just because she'll lose most  of her money, but because she is kind at heart. I especially love the way she speaks her thoughts through her dog, Horace. 

The only major female character I don't like is Elizabeth. She's cold, brittle and very much like a marble statue come to life. She does what she thinks is right but she isn't the best decision maker. I did feel sorry for her at first but she quickly lost my sympathy. She doesn't take an interest in estate matters and blames everyone else for her problems. She allows her feelings to interfere with Ross's life and ruins everything!

There are numerous secondary characters, including the miners and fisherfolk of the village. This isn't a Jane Austen drawing room comedy of manners but it is set in her lifetime for those interested in a little more rawness and historical background. I highly highly recommend picking up the first two books and watching the first few episodes of Season 1 at the same time. The TV series is remarkably faithful to the novels but the pace is much faster and the timeline condensed. Reading the books gives you a better understanding of the time period and introduces the supporting characters better. 

A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Day 3


A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Day 3

Sunday October 22

The final day.
Brunch was absolutely not worth waking up for. They had a plate of pastries on the table and served something that looked like eggs and sausage. I was NOT impressed and left for something better. After grabbing the best doughnut I've ever had at Astro Donuts and Fried Chicken (Hostess chocolate cupcake in doughnut form OMG heaven!), I returned to the hotel in time for the speaker.

This talk was right in my wheelhouse and extremely interesting! As a special collections librarian/archivist, I love anything to do with rare books. Dr. Juliette Wells, 
Associate Professor and Chair, English at Goucher College, gave a presentation on   the six surviving copies of the 1816 American edition of Emma Emma was the only one of Jane Austen's works published in the United States during her lifetime. It wasn't a huge hit and very few copies were printed. 6 survive in varying conditions, but none in pristine shape due to the cost-cutting measures the publisher used. (He printed the novel on cheap paper).  Goucher is privileged to own one surviving copy. 
The owners of the book were traced through the records and a story can be told about the history of the book and those who read it.

Read more at Emma in America

copy belonging to the New York Society Library, originally belonging to Hammond's Circulating Library in Newport, RI, contains annotations by a discerning reader. They originally noted "This book is not worth reading,"but kept on reading and annotating. These are quite amusing: "How dis a gree able is Mrs. Elton,"  Then later,"Mrs. Elton is a goose." At the very end of the book, she compiled a list of her reactions“Mr. Knightley—tolerable,” “Emma—intolerable,” “Harriet—very pleasant,” and “El[ton]—d____d sneak”.

Read more at the New York Society

Then we were treated to presentations to tease us into attending future AGMs. 2017 will be in Huntington Beach, California. A sunbathing Jane Austen doesn't appeal to me. I would like to see the Huntington Library but I am content to view some of their treasures online. In 2018, JASNA will be celebrating my favorite Austen novel, Persuasion, in Kansas City. Why would I want to go there? It's halfway across the country and I don't know anyone there. Well, the JASNA AGM committee convinced me I may have to go. They teased a video presentation by Amanda Root (Anne Elliot in the film adaptation of Persuasion). They will present a special video recording of her discussing the role and if her schedule permits, she would be happy to attend. OK you got me. Plus the after AGM dinner will be at Chef Lidia Bastianich's restaurant and she MAY be persuaded to show up there a few weeks early. My parents love her and rave about her cooking. (It reminds my dad of his mother's cooking). Also, Kansas City is the city of fountains. It looked very nice. Alas, when I checked out flight schedules, if I am still living here, it will be a very long and difficult journey so I probably will not attend, but it sounded like fun.

I left after that. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful fall day in my favorite city. I wanted to get outdoors and sightsee a bit before going home. 

I had fun at the AGM and I would be interested in going again but it's too expensive for me right now, especially with meals I don't eat included. 

I picked up a bunch of swag while I was there:
They gave us this nice bag to carry all our swag in 

and a Pride and Prejudice notebook.

A fan advertises the next AGM
Some advertising bookmarks and postcards

 Jane Austen summer program in North Carolina. I want to go! Is it acceptable to ditch a family wedding for Jane Austen? I have another cousin who lives there.

Jane Austen summer program in North Carolina. I want to go! Is it acceptable to ditch a family wedding for Jane Austen? I have another cousin who lives there.

I purchased some postcards from Chawton House, my dream vacation location!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Night 2


A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Night 2

Saturday October 22: Banquet and Ball

After the breakout sessions, I returned "home" to my cousin's house to take a quick nap and get ready for the ball. I brought a costume with me. I could either afford a Regency era dress or the AGM but not both. Luckily, in my closet, I had a costume ready to go. A few years ago I purchased a boho style blouse and skirt at an Indian store nearby. The white embroidery on white cotton looked very much like a Georgian/Regency dress. I made it look more like a dress by adding a sky blue satin sash to match my reticule, shawl and ballet slipper shoes. I also replaced the modern plastic buttons with Dorset buttons from Etsy seller ASButtonsMarket. (I highly recommend these buttons. They're beautiful, well-made and really made the outfit look somewhat more authentic).
I worked hard to achieve some kind of Georgian/Regency ringlets in my hair, tied my turban over my head and headed out the door again.

I took the public stage, otherwise known as the city bus, all the way across the city. As a consequence, I missed the social hour and barely had time to take off my modern shoes and outerwear and finish dressing for the banquet and ball. 

The banquet wasn't quite what I had expected. It felt very rushed and there wasn't much time to socialize. It felt a lot like a wedding. Being the world's pickiest eater over the age of 6, I had the children's meal of chicken fingers. They were OK but not great. Dessert was a sweet little apple tart in a graham crust with crumble topping. It tasted nice and was very seasonal but a little disappointing because it was something I could have made myself with some effort. With 850 Janeites and their companions, it was difficult to see or talk to many people.

I sat with some strangers who were quite nice. The lady next to me was from Madison, Wisconsin and I told her how much I love looking at their historical society's website. I wish I could get a job there! She said there are a lot of young(er) adults just out of library school like myself competing for very few jobs in that area. She told me about some other special libraries she had visited like the Budweiser archive. Who knew there was such a thing? Too bad I don't drink beer! It did expand my knowledge of special libraries and where to look for jobs. Next to her was a fellow New Englander and librarian who went all the way to Illinois for library school. On the other side of the librarian was a name I recognized - Janet Mullany. I've only read one of her books, The Rules of Gentility, and found it very funny; and one of her short stories in Jane Austen Made Me Do It. I didn't have a chance to talk to her though.

After the banquet I joined in the promenade around the hotel lobby. We went up the escalator, around the first floor; up the next escalator and around the main lobby; down and around again. I saw some very lovely costumes and wanted pictures so I dropped out of the promenade after two trips around to photograph the other participants. The gentlemen looked very nice indeed!

More pictures of the promenade:
Promenade Part 1 and Part 2

While the ballroom was getting set up I attended a panel discussion on Jane Austen Around the World. The speakers were Susannah Fullerton of JASA (Australia), Claire Bellanti, (JASNA), Maureen Stiller from the Jane Austen Society (UK), Adriana Sales Zardini of JASBRA (Brazil) and Laaleen Sukhera-Khan of Jane Austen Pakistan; moderated by Joan Ray. 

The last two societies are quite new but very popular. The Jane Austen Society of Pakistan has a large Facebook group with occasional meetings for tea. Jane Austen's world feels very familiar to them, Pakistan being a former British colony. In contrast, Adriana had a difficult time translating Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility into Portuguese. In Portuguese they have only one word for carriage, but Jane Austen's text is so nuanced, the type of carriage named represents the social status and character of the owner. She consulted Spanish and Italian translations for assistance. I wonder if Jane Austen ever considered that people would be reading her novels in a time and place where the rules of society and pop culture references would be foreign to readers? 

The panel discussed patriarchy and Jane Austen readers. It was a difficult question to answer. Susannah Fullerton noted that her native New Zealand was the first country to allow women the vote and female readers there identify with Lizzie Bennet's independent spirit! There were a number of gentlemen in attendance and not just as companions. It seems more acceptable for men to read Jane Austen now. Sadly, Susannah Fullerton's sons don't share the love but they are fully well aware of their mother's work. She shared a funny anecdote about when her son was small, he had a friend over to work on a project. They needed the dining room table so her son told his friend they had to clear off his mother's Jane Austen stuff first. "Who's Jane Austen?" the friend replied. The son responded incredulously "You don't know who Jane Austen is?!" 

I peeked in the ball as the dancing was getting started. I've seen and tried Regency dancing and it's not easy. 

Health issues prevent me from trying to dance so I retreated to the card room upstairs. I met some nice ladies and together we learned to play four-handed whist, with special Jane Austen cards, of course. They also had instructions for piquet, lottery fish, backgammon and outside in the lobby area, an ongoing Jane Austen puzzle. See more pictures of the games.

Just as I was winning the card game, my too-modern phone rang with my ride announcing their arrival. Like Cinderella, I had to make a hasty early exit. I had just enough time at the ball to keep me from being bored. I was exhausted and ready to go to bed. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Day 2


A Trip to JASNA AGM 2016 : Day 2

Saturday October 22

JASNA North American Scholar Lecture: Dr. Susan Allen Ford "Not That You Would Think Anything Of" Robert Martin and Harriet Smith

This talk examined Emma's prejudice against Robert Martin as an appropriate husband for Harriet vs. the reality. After examining agricultural journals of the period, Dr. Ford discovered many subtle nuances in Emma that indicate Robert Martin is actually quite a well-to-do man and not a mere laborer! He was quite in love with Harriet. This was a really fascinating in-depth look at the things in Austen novels that have been lost to time. Certainly her readers would have known at least some of the subtle clues that give them a better idea of Robert Martin's character. 

Breakout Session C1: "So Prettily Done!" Illustrating Emma

Deborah Barnum, Regional Co-Coordinator, Vermont Region

From Bentley's 1833 edition to the latest Marvel comic, numerous illustrators have imagined the characters and settings of Emma. This visual journey takes listeners through the nearly 200 years of Emma's illustrated history, comparing the artists and their times, and discussing which of the many Mr. Knightley's works best.

I HAD to go to this session by my fellow New Englander and rare book collector. The various illustration styles and scenes illustrators have chosen to depict over time are quite interesting. Ms. Barnum invited the audience to interact by answering several questions:

  • What would you choose to illustrate?
  • How strictly do you need to stick to the text?
  • Do the illustrations give a true account of the times and setting of the story?
  • What of the illustration itself? Is the technique right for the action?
  • Does an illustration that does not agree with your subjective view ruin the reading of the book/or movie for you?
My personal answers are:
  • I'd have to read the book carefully. I would not have thought to include random scenes like the Perry children eating wedding cake. 
  • I'm a purist. If the text says Emma has brown hair and hazel eyes, the illustration/actress had better have brown hair and hazel eyes. For some reason Emma continues to be depicted as a blond. 
  • It depends on the illustration, obviously.
  • Yes! I can't stand it when illustrations and especially movies fail to get it right. 

The first illustrated Emma from 1833 by William Greenbatch after George Pickering.
Emma and Harriet look too much alike, the clothing styles are wrong. On the plus side, Mr. Elton is in the image.

Here we have two images from the 1870s. They are very nice for being black and white though once again the clothing styles are wrong. This Emma reminds me of Amy March in Little Women for some reason.

Now we have better clothing styles in this 1892 edition illustrated by Edmund H. Garrett. I like the action being outside and seeing the house in the background.

This is a great scene, illustrated by Hugh Thompson. It's not one I would have thought about including - Mr. Knightley tossing his nephew in the air - but it's sweet. It shows Mr. Knightley's character and Emma looking on. They could almost be a married couple with their own children. I like seeing Emma lounging and not posing stiff.

Emma and Knightley by C.E. and H.M. Brock. This is quite nice. It shows a sweet and tender scene - um is it still a spoiler of the book was written 200 years ago? The clothing looks right and the action is outside where it belongs. It looks very realistic-like the reader is right there at Hartfield with the characters.

This one by C.E. Brock from 1909 is beautiful! I love the soft colors. It's so romantic. As with the previous illustration, it's outside where it belongs and you can see Hartfield in the background. It's a little more romantic and dreamy than the previous image.

The first female illustrator, Christiana Hammond, did these drawings in 1898.
I think Emma looks rather older than her years here. It's a sweet scene but not one that I probably would have chosen to illustrate.

One more out of copyright image is from 1910 by William Sewall. I don't like this one at all. It's dark and the style is a little too modern for me. I do like the action being outside.
image from ebay
Fast forward to present day when illustrators are still giving us their own interpretation of Emma. From the super cute Cozy Classics (my personal favorite)
Emma Cozy Classics edition Jack and Holman Wang

to the bizarre Manga version
Manga Classics: Emma Softcover (Manga Classics, Jane Austen): Jane Austen, Stacy King, Crystal Chan, Po Tse

(Actually this image isn't that bad but the one shown in the presentation of Harriet Smith was strange).

Well, I like the modern sentiments expressed by Emma ...

Deborah Barnum invited people to e-mail her or comment on her blog weighing in  on their favorite illustrators and scenes. My favorite illustrator is H.M. Brock.

Breakout Session D8: One Very Superior Party: In Which Mrs. Elton Shews the Inhabitants of Highbury "How Everything Ought to be Arranged"  
Kim Wilson, Wisconsin region

What does Mrs. Elton mean when she criticizes the parties held at Highbury, and what sort of party should she give? Informative and amusing illustrations of Regency-era parties, games, foods and table settings will show participants what Mrs. Elton's evening party would have looked like and how they can easily recreate it.

Some of this was overlap from Joyce White's talk on desserts. Much of the information was known to me. What I liked was the hands-on experience of seeing, feeling and smelling things that were used at parties. We smelled orange flower water, which doesn't smell much like oranges; rosewater, which I have used before and don't like. It smells and tastes like soap. 

What I also really enjoyed was how to throw a Regency party cheaply. She threw a nice Regency party using mid-late-20th-century reproduction Regency/Victorian style table settings. Some were inherited from her mother-in-law and some were purchased at discount stores like Home Goods. Reproduction Spode can be found cheaply online too and blue and white transferware was popular in the mid-20th-century. 

Ms. Wilson also included a handout with many recipes. One side has recipes for rout cakes (little cookies or biscuits) from period cookbooks. The other side has recipes for water iceas. I want to try cinnamon ice

Recipe from The Professed Cook (1812)
Glace de Candle /Cinnamon Ice 
Infuse a proper quantity of cinnamon about an hour in hot water and boil it a moment. Add half a pound of fine sugar to a pint of water; sift it through a sieve and finish as others.

Modern interpretation:
4 3-inch cinnamon sticks
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
Bring cinnamon sticks and water to a boil, remove from heat and let sit an hour. Bring it back to a boil briefly, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Cool, chill until cold, then freeze. 
Kim Wilson gives further suggestion for what she calls the Lydia option: To a 1.5 litre carton of good vanilla ice cream mix 1-2 tablespoons of good ground cinnamon to taste, stir well and return to freezer.

You can see images of such ices on food historian Ivan Day's website