It’s hard to believe that it’s truly been 10 years since North & South first aired on the BBC. I have read that the production team and the BBC held little hopes of making a lasting impression on their audience, needless to say, they were pleased by the flood of responses after just the first hour segment shown on November 14th, 2004. The response was so positive that it overwhelmed the networks website discussion forum and they had to shut it down!
For me, it was two more years before I discovered it and that was by accident. Though many of you have read this story before, in honor of the 10th anniversary, I thought that I would tell an abbreviated version of how I came to find N&S, just for those that might not have heard it. Then I will share my first impressions. Even nearly 8 years later, they are permanently planted in my mind as if it happened yesterday. It feels like yesterday and yet at the same time, a lifetime ago. Did I have a life before N&S?
My road to discovery of N&S is due to a Masterpiece Classic production of Jane Eyre. As a side note, this version of Jane Eyre, starring Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson is, in my opinion, the absolute BEST adaptation of the novel to date. (Interestingly enough the screen writer is none other than North & South’s Sandy Welch.)
A short time after watching this adaptation, my teenage daughter introduced me to YouTube and fan videos. (that’s another thing that is hard to believe it has only been 8 years!) I was so impress and intrigued by what I saw, I started to search and see if others had been done of other favorite movies. Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice.. etc. It was through the channel of Austen fanvids, that I stumbled upon compilation vids. One in particular included a scene where a couple sat on a park bench, speaking to one another and then sharing a kiss. Sound familiar? You all know the scene I describe, so imagine that being your first image of this amazing adaptation! For some, they might have felt that this would spoil the whole of the story. Yet for me… it only placed a determination to find out WHAT MOVIE this scene came from. This turned out to be no small task, as many videos don’t credit the movies to which the clips are from.
Thankfully, I found it and much to my delight North & South, in its entirety, was available on YouTube (thanx Heather). So, on a VERY cold Sunday afternoon, reclined in my favorite chair, Macbook on my lap with earphones in place and hot cup of tea in hand… watched it.. in 10 minute segments.
I would love to tell you that the rest is history and in a way… it was, but it took several viewings for me to really grasp how this story and these characters had taken hold of my heart. So let me share my memories of those first viewings.
The first thought that I remember having was of a scene that many struggle with. The scene where Margaret throws open the doors to the weaving room, catches sight of Thornton on that platform and then watches in horror as he chases down Stephens and beats him senseless. First of all, after reading the novel some months later, (my quest to find a copy is another story!) I do agree that this scene poorly represents the character of Thornton. It has brought in assumptions regarding Thornton having a temper and we’ve already covered that topic in a previous discussion. Yet again, for me, the scene doesn’t greatly upset me.
Not unlike Margaret, when she first catches site of Thornton on the platform, I was effected by the imagine of this man standing there. Though I have no memory of this physical reaction, I am certain it stole my breath. In an instant, I knew THIS was our hero and so when he flew off that platform and beat Stephens, my reaction was not disgusted.. but “There must be a good reason for it!” Instinctively, I knew there was more to this man than what I was watching play out before me. Thankfully, I was proven correct!
The next scene that made an impact on me was the riot scene. My sense of Margaret coming into this scene was that there was more to her “aversion” to Thornton than met the eye. So when the scene came with her running down before the mob to protect him came, it left me with little doubt. Now let me just add that I am not saying that she loved him and “KNEW” it, what I am saying is that I sensed that there was more to Margaret’s relationship and feelings for Thornton.
That brings us to the horrible rejection scene. I remember shaking my head in disbelief as she cruelly disregarded his heart. lol.. in fact I distinctly remember muttering, “She doth protest too much! Oh Margaret what have you done!” Then as the screen went to black, I released a frustrated sigh!
As with all stories such as this, I knew it would eventually bring them together, so I watched with much pleasure as the story slowly broke away all of Margaret’s resistances and then watched, with an aching heart, as Thornton’s broken heart failed to see the signs of Margaret’s shift towards him.
Remember, it was the train scene that pressed me to find the film in the first place, so you would think that would have been at the forefront of my mind, but it wasn’t. I was so lost in the storyline that I followed in through … enjoying that amazing scene unfold before me. The power of that scene quadrupled in power once the story that brought them there was laid out before.
I will confess… that I re-watched the movie and favorites scene so many times that I lost count. It only took a few weeks for my decision to have my own copy was made. I went on Amazon, order it and waited with strong anticipation for it to arrive. I do not exaggerate that when it finally came in the mail, I held it to my chest as if it was a cherished childhood memento. Now, years later, N&S goes with me everywhere I go. In digital form, it lives on my computer, iPad and iPhone (examples shown throughout this post). I have 5 copies of the book, not including the digital copies that live on all fore mentioned devices. I’ve lost count on how many copies I’ve influenced the sale on, as I’ve lost count on how many people I’ve introduced to the series. (That number is constantly growing!)
I have more thoughts and reflections that I am saving for our discussion. I truly hope that you will share where you first heard about North & South and what you remember of your first impression. As always you are welcome to comment on this post directly! I look forward to celebrating this day with all of you!
Don’t forget to share the photos of your viewing of this wonderful film this weekend. You can do it on Facebook Twitter (using hashtag #NS10 or right here on WoM by adding a link to your photo in your comment. I am anxious to hear your stories! So pull out your copy of N&S and share your first impressions of this wonderful series!
From time to time, I like to bring to you attention something that I think is of worth. Even if there is no direct link to North & South or its characters. West of Milton was originally designed to celebrate and discuss many different topics, but due to my passion for North & South, I always seem to come back to it! Go figure! LOL
In this post I want to bring to your attention a wonderful book being released this month.
The Lord’s Bishop’s Clerk does actually have a link, in a round about way. This fantastic novel is written by a fellow fan of North & South, Sarah Hawkswood.
The Lord’s Bishop’s Clerk, however, is an original work and part of a series called the ‘Bradecote & Catchpoll Investigations’. A murder mystery series set in 12th century England, during the Anarchy of King Stephen’s reign. They follow the investigations of Hugh Bradecote, a subject lord of the Sheriff, William de Beauchamp, and the Sheriff’s Serjeant, the wily Catchpoll.
This first of the series begins in June of 1143. The Lord Bishop of Winchester’s Clerk is bludgeoned to death in Pershore Abbey, and laid before the altar in the attitude of a penitent. Everyone who had contact with him had reason to dislike him, but who had reason to kill him? The Sheriff of Worcestershire’s thief taker, the wily Serjeant Catchpoll, and his new and unwanted superior, Acting Under Sheriff Hugh Bradecote, have to find the answer when nobody wants the murderer apprehended – until the next death.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading this series and I will confess, though I do not dislike murder mysteries, they are not a genre that I tend to gravitate to. Yet this story does an amazing job of grabbing hold of you and pulling you into the 12th century. There were times I could swear I felt the elements right along with Bradecote and Catchpoll. The chill of danger as they pursued their leads. If you like period novels you will really enjoy this story and it’s wonderful characters.
Psst: I will share a little secret. As I said, though there is no direct link to North & South, Sarah has told me that after seeing North & South, Bradecote’s physical form had finally taken shape in her mind. Though again Bradecote was created long before, and therefore is his independent character, you can imagine Richard Armitage playing out this role as you read through the story! (I don’t know about you but I love to get a vision of the characters in my head when I’m reading!)
The Lord Bishop’s Clerk is available for preorder at Amazon.com
. It will be available in paperback and ebook form. Check out this wonderful beginning of the series and be sure to check back and tell me what you think!
Side note: Okay everyone.. we have one more day until the 10th anniversary of the British release of North & South! I hope you all will watch the series sometime this weekend. You all can look forward to a post from me sometime tomorrow, there you will be welcome to share you thoughts and recollections of your first viewing of the series!
Hey everyone, I was just on Facebook and came across this great new group. The group was created for the sole purpose of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first première of North & South. (November 14, 2004)
I am going to share some links to join the various groups now set up to mark this occasion, but before I do, let me share the details regarding this “quest of global celebration”… what are they asking?
During the weekend of November 14, watch N&S and take a selfie of you watching (Shy people: if you, like me, are shy about taking a selfie that includes your face, don’t be concerned. My selfie is going to be of my TV with my legs stretched out on the coffee table in front of my sofa!).*
Then, post your photo on Twitter, your Facebook page, on the NS10 Facebook site, etc.
On your selfie post include your location to demonstrate the global appeal of North & South. Also, remember to add the #NS10 (withnospaces) hashtag so we can compile all of these into one place, either on the special N&S page(link below) or on a blog.
“excerpt from blog post on Richard Armitage US “
As I am not a big fan of the results of my “selfies”, I will be doing what the blogger suggests… time to paint those toe nails! lol
The group is also asking for fans of the other actors in the production to join in the celebration. If you know of how to reach some of the fan groups, please share in the comments area, contact me or go directly to FB, twitter or the blog listed below.
Daniela Denby-Ashe – Margaret Hale
Richard Armitage – John Thornton (think they have this covered )
Tim Pigott-Smith – Richard Hale
Sinéad Cusack- Hannah Thornton
Brendan Coyle – Nicholas Higgins
Anna Maxwell Martin – Bessy Higgins
Lesley Manville – Maria Hale
Jo Joyner – Fanny Thornton
Pauline Quirke – Dixon
Brian Protheroe – Mr. Bell
Rupert Evans – Frederick Hale
John Light – Henry Lennox
William Houston -John Boucher
I’m looking forward to this as it’s been a bit too long since I’ve watched the series all the way through. I need this treat.. it’s been a long YEAR!
Please Join NS10 – A Fan-Based 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Premiere of North & South
the Facebook page
Twitter Account: Twitter: NS10 @NandS10th
Email account: ns10thanniversary at gmail.com
Blog: Richard Armitage US
I will also post any pictures that you all share with me here on WoM.
I was hoping for a 10th anniversary special edition of the DVD, but I don’t think that’s in the cards! Darn! Come on ladies let’s join in on the fun. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years already!
**if you know of other celebrations going on, please let me know via the comments or by contact form!
As always.. comments welcome. Will you join in the celebration.. share that. Even if you can’t watch it that weekend (Nov14) if you watch it in honor of the celebration… tell us all when you are watching.
Hello all, Shanghaiedinla asked if I would let all of you know of her blog. Here are the details:
I’ve relaunched my arts/entertainment blog (formerly at LiveJournal) after a *long hiatus. I review/post primarily about TV and film (and criticism thereof). I take on a mix of what’s in the zeitgeist, what I really love and what I really *don’t love. Industry related news/speculation gleaned from BTS coverage and/or the trades is also fair game. I’ll also occasionally initiate a discussion about social media’s impact on fandom (or fannish) behavior. My goal is to get people talking and thinking, so I try to avoid rehashing perspectives and critiques already out there for public consumption.
If you would be interested in seeing what Shangheiedinla has to say.. check out her blog!
*If you have a website, blog or item that fits within the realm of WoM topics, I will be happy to post your announcement as well, just contact me via the contact form on this site. I do ask that if you do make a request that you are a faithful member, either by discussions or follower. If you are a faithful follower of WoM, as stated, I would be happy to consider your announcement. If the topic of your blog, website or product is outside of WoM realm of topics, I reserve the right to accept or decline, due to that nature of the topic.
However much the heroine of a Victorian story displays her independent tendencies, for a traditional happy ending, the tale must end in marriage. North and South is no exception.
After evading Henry Lennox’s vision of domestic contentment and spurning John Thornton for attempting to rescue her reputation, will Margaret Hale find lasting happiness marrying the powerful Milton manufacturer?
I’m ever the romantic, wanting to believe that happily-ever-after’s really do happen for my favorite literary couples. But others have not been as optimistic about Margaret Thornton’s future. Endeavoring to look at the realities of years of married life in that era, it’s reasonable to ask some hard questions: wouldn’t she eventually feel confined in her domestic roles, trapped in an ugly city where she lives next to a noisy mill spewing forth filth into the sky? …. and with Fanny and Hannah for her closest female relatives?
Who says the path of happiness has to be lined with primroses? Living in Milton was not going to be anything like the comfortable, carefree life that her cousin Edith inhabited. But Margaret didn’t want that life. She turned away from that life twice — first, when she rejected Henry, and again in the end when she refused to waste her life away in London following the patterns of self-satisfied social activity that Edith enjoyed.
Gaskell shows us from the very beginning that Margaret is made from a different mold than those around her. She didn’t seem to aspire to anything beyond enjoying her family and what personal freedom she has. She’s compassionate and kind, always considering the impact of her actions on others. She doesn’t need to be the center of attention to be happy, nor does she need extraneous finery to make her feel satisfied or proud. Margaret Hale has a very strong sense of identity. She’s a self-assured, quiet thinker who feels confident in her own sense of self-worth. She doesn’t need to look to a husband to define her or validate her. In fact, she doesn’t appear to be interested in seeking a husband at all.
So what is Margaret looking for in life? What makes her tick and what drives her? The answers to these questions I think would help spell out what type of marriage would work out best for her. In the end, what makes us happy is not our physical environment, but our mental atmosphere.
I think family is hugely important to Margaret. Most of what she does in the novel and a lot of what she suffers is due to her strong commitment and desire to fulfill a supportive role in her family. She sacrifices self for her family at nearly every turn.
She wants to be a part of making things harmonious. She is impelled to try to do things that make things better. She’s determined and strong-willed when it pertains to someone else’s suffering. She doesn’t seek out power, but she will take the reins if no one else is willing or able to do what needs to be done and withstand the consequences. She is guided by a strong moral sense. In short, she’s a strong thinker, doer, and lover. She’ll think for herself, do what she thinks is right, and love whomever she decides to love, despite social boundaries.
I don’t get any indication that Thornton would be the type of husband who hopes to mold his wife to his will. It’s Margaret’s independent and self-assured spirit that really knocks him speechless at their first meeting. Here’s a man who loves her for who she is – her mind and body and soul. This successful and experienced businessman listens to her – a young chit from the country who has no idea what life in the industrialized world entails. And he wants to hear her speak her mind.
He’s a match for her in all aspects: strength of character, intellect, determination, morality, and passion. I think Gaskell’s vision of this marital union was modeled very much on the Unitarian ideals of marriage she and her husband embodied – that of a more equal partnership than the prevailing model of female subjugation.
John Thornton is a man who has spent years building a home for his mother and sister. He has a strong yearning for a satisfying sense of home, and a heart that beats strong with longing to love and protect those under his domain. His dedication to his work has been formidable, but he’s also spent considerable amount of heartache for two years, longing for the wife he’s chosen. I can’t believe he’d be dunder-headed enough to take that wife for granted once they were married. It’s clear he desperately wants the warmth, comfort, and intimacy that marriage promises. He wants a soft place to land. He will invest time and effort in this relationship, which he long believed was beyond his grasp.
Of course, Margaret would likely be wrapped up in domestic concerns once children came on the scene. But I don’t find any hints from the book to indicate that she wouldn’t relish the role of mother and wife – in trying to bring peace, order, and comfort to all within her sphere. She seems to be a natural nurturer. She wants to help Bessy, her parents, the Bouchers, etc.
But would her influence be confined to her own household? I hardly think so. Margaret has the ear of one of Milton’s most powerful and looked-to men. Her ideas and impulses concerning any range of social or economic issues and dilemmas will be heard. If she has a desire to work in the community or to push forward new agendas, I doubt John would hinder her strong inclinations. She will have a voice.
She will be free to think and do as she pleases within a normal limit of personal obligations. In Milton, there will be endless opportunities for using her talents for being on the forward edge of social thinking. Her life will be as full of as much useful activity as she chooses to take on. She will have purpose in the realms she tends to.
And I have to believe that she would revel in the role of being her husband’s solace and confidant at the end of every day. Who wouldn’t want that job? And what is there that a happy and contented John Thornton couldn’t accomplish?
Yes, these two make a fabulous team. It’s clear from the anguish expressed in the book, that each would never have been radiantly happy to live a lifetime alone. For both of these unique individuals, no other person would have satisfied as a spouse. There was only one thing missing in their lives….
For better or worse, their match was inevitable. And considering the mental suffering both Margaret and John endured in their belief that the other would never have them, I think this marriage would have turned out to be something pretty special.
As you may already know, Lori has asked me to write a piece on what I like about the ending of the book and, by extension, what I don’t like about the ending of the movie. (By movie, of course, I mean the beloved, albeit controversial, 2004 film adaptation – obviously.) This is not that post. Instead, while doing my homework for that post, I ran across some other bits of information that sparked my curiosity but that were too tangentially related to the topic of the ending to be included in that post. I mean really, if I had put them in there, that would have been an epically long post with epically long footnotes. So, instead of making you wade through a dissertation, I thought it best to address select side-issues separately. This piece is one of those curious footnotes. –Courtney
At the end of the 2004 movie, during the final (hotly debated) train platform scene, John is on his way back to Milton after having been to Helstone where, incidentally, he found and kept a rose from the Hales’ former parsonage. When he starts talking to Margaret, the first thing he does is present this flower. Because he was just there earlier that day, the flower is fresh. Really, really fresh. He removes it from the breast pocket of his vest and hands it to Margaret to tell her where he’s been. She is mildly astonished at the sight of it, not because he had been to Helstone, not because he had been to her old house, but because she thought those roses were all gone. [roll your eyes with me] Then, they quickly move on to the topic of her business proposal.
In the book, however, the flower part of this scene plays out completely differently. John doesn’t produce the roses until after he and Margaret have (essentially) declared their love for each other, not upon their first entering into conversation. And the roses he produces are dead. Dried and preserved, not fresh. In fact, he had collected them from Helstone over a year prior to this meeting and has kept them ever since.
Which made me wonder, What’s the deal with the roses? Sure, it’s a cute little exchange, but it hardly seemed significant. Yes, they indicate that he had gone to Helstone – Margaret’s idolized (idealized) childhood home – and yes, that’s very sweet of him. But is it weird that he kept them? Or that Margaret demanded they be given to her? What’s the deal?
As I looked into the flower issue, I came to appreciate it as an act of devotion and sentimentality that meant a great deal to John and Margaret. So I’ll take you through it.
Here’s the scene:
“’Do you know these roses?’ he said, drawing out his pocket-book, in which were treasured up some dead flowers.
‘No!’ she replied, with innocent curiosity. ‘Did I give them to you?’
‘No! Vanity; you did no. You may have worn sister roses very probably.’
She looked at them, wondering for a minute, then she smiled a little as she said –
‘They are from Helstone, are they not? I know the deep indentations round the leaves. Oh! have you been there? When were you there?’
‘I wanted to see the place where Margaret grew to what she is, even at the worst time of all, when I had no hope of ever calling her mine. I went there on my return from Havre.’
‘You must give them to me,’ she said, trying to take them out of his hand with gentle violence.
‘Very well. Only you must pay me for them!’”
(Ch. 52 – Pack Clouds Away)
When I first read about the “dead flowers” I thought John was just being sweet and sentimental and maybe a little sappy, bless his heart. I had no idea the possible degree to which he had gone to preserve those flowers, nor the cultural meaning of such a gesture.
According to my internet research, the Victorians were REALLY interested in flowers. They ascribed meaning to them and could send “messages” to people based on which flowers they sent. Red roses were love, pink roses were purity, yellow roses were friendship, black roses were death…you get the point. We don’t know what color these roses were. (We’ll assume they weren’t black.) But regardless of their color, they clearly meant something to John and to Margaret such that their mere presence was significant. They were old, well-preserved, and culturally relevant – the perfect Victorian token of love.
If they weren’t fresh, like in the movie, how old were they? John says that he went to Helstone on his way back from Havre. If you remember, John was on the train back from Havre when he met up with Mr. Bell and learned of Mr. Hale’s death. (Ch. 41 – The Journey’s End) Bell was on his way to inform Margaret of her father’s sudden expiration. So how long before this meeting in the study was that trip, exactly? Well, you’ll remember that after her father’s death and after she cleared up a few local affairs, Margaret was whisked off to London to live with her Aunt Shaw (Ch. 43 – Margaret’s Flittin’) and that she had been gone “considerably more than a year” before John showed up for that fateful dinner party and their encounter in the study (Ch. 51 – Meeting Again).
Here’s the timeline:
Flowers were picked -> They (the flowers, JT, and Bell) travelled to Milton -> Margaret learned of her father’s death -> Margaret waited for Aunt Shaw to arrive -> Margaret cleared up local affairs -> Margaret stayed in London for “considerably more than a year” -> Thornton arrives in the study and shows Margaret the flowers.
Added up it equals really, REALLY old flowers.
They were well over a year old, yet still in great shape! The fact that these roses were preserved well enough that over a year later they could still be recognized by the indentations on their leaves tells me John did a careful job of preserving the flowers.
Which would make sense. Apparently, the Victorians were dedicated flower preservationists. They dried and used flowers in many kinds of art, both decorative and keepsake. Of course, I’ve never tried to press a flower. I don’t know that it’s even ever occurred to me to press a flower. But, our dear, love-sick John Thornton did.
And apparently, flower pressing is quite a process!
Flower pressing is the process by which moisture is removed from the flower while the color and basic shape are preserved. To effectively remove the moisture from the flower without destroying it or losing it to mold, one must be careful and diligent. It’s not as simple as slapping it between two pages of a book and forgetting it’s there. (That’s what I would do.) Instead, one must use blotting pages to absorb the moisture. Then, every so often, one must change the blotting pages so that fresh ones can absorb the remaining moisture. Old pages are moist pages and if the moisture is kept in contact with the flower for too long, mold will develop. It’s not a do-it-once-and-forget-about-it process. It’s meticulous and requires maintenance.
But John’s flowers weren’t moldy. They were nicely preserved. Old, dry, and recognizable. He hadn’t just stuffed them in his pocket and forgotten about them. Of course not! Our John wasn’t impulsive. He was meticulous. And apparently, he did a fine job of preserving those flowers – Margaret recognized them by a tiny detail on the leaf, which would have been lost had someone like me done the preserving.
After he presents the flowers and she guesses where they’re from, Margaret demands John give them to her. She even tries forcibly to remove them from him! I always saw this as a strange little exchange – maybe artificially enhanced so that Gaskell could set up the kiss John demands as payment. But because the Victorians were so sentimental and intentional in their flower rituals, it seems that perhaps Margaret was within the scope of reasonable, culturally acceptable behavior to believe that the roses SHOULD be given to her. That’s what people did. They gave each other flowers that meant something – that were sentimental – that were meaningful – and I believe that John intended to give them to her, not just to present them for her inspection.
I wonder if, when he knew he would be travelling to London and might encounter Margaret, he removed the flowers from their normal place and put them in his pocket book in hope of giving them to her. Or, maybe he just wore them on his person at all times. Either way, he’s adorable.
I like to think that he wore them in his pocket at all times. After all, they were all he had to remind him of his beloved Margaret. And if that’s the case, then think for a minute. He must have had those roses carefully tucked away in his chest pocket when Margaret came to say goodbye to him before leaving for London. I can imagine him feeling the weight of them against his chest as she walked out of his life, seemingly forever, and his heart broke. Those flowers weren’t just an afterthought of a dreamy, love-sick boy, plucked as he strolled a strange garden, then carelessly stuffed into his jacket. They were cherished. They meant something to him. They were Margaret’s and they were HIS – when she was not.
Now, in the study, John, who had held onto those roses for well over a year as a reminder of the woman he loved, was finally holding the woman he loved. The roses could now safely be given to her. And I’m sure that our Margaret took those roses and pressed them into a glass frame for display in their house in Milton where she and John – and their children and grandchildren – could see them and remember their time apart and how much they cherished being together.
Thank you Courtney for this lovely post!