We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Pallisers 2:3 Alice reading, window-seat, Matching Priory · 1 October 07

Dear Marianne,

An addendum to my letter-blog on Volume 2, Part 3, of the Pallisers, The Splendours & Miseries of Courtesans.

Alice Vavasour (Caroline Mortimer) in the window-seat at Matching Priory: she’s reading in the early morning just before Mr Palliser (Philip Latham) comes to see and accuse her of what he takes to be her “abominable” conduct in taking his wife, Lady Glencora (Susan Hampshire) out to the priory ruins late at night. It seems Lady Glen is without agency or self-ownership (in his mind).

A brave woman of real integrity and thoughtfulness (not quite Trollope’s Alice), Raven’s Alice has the guts to advise her host not to insist Lady Glencora go with him to Monkshade, for which effort he promptly tells her she had better leave that morning as she’s no longer wanted. He clearly is treating her in something of the same light Mr Bott (John Stratton) did (an instrument), and in these last moments, in a fit of hot temper, with less self-flattery and self-blind hypocrisy than he had before.

But I don’t put the picture up for this. I put it up for its beauty. Caroline Mortimer is costumed as she is throughout the series based on John Everett Millais’ illustrations (typical of those Trollope loved, the idyllic style). This still of Alice, llike many others in these 26 plays, is meant to evoke the original illustrations to Victorian novels of the era. It’s also yet another of this window-seat, the cage-window Lady Glen writhes against, this recurring window-seat, frokm which at the end of the series (Part 26, last scene), Plantagenet, now Duke of Omnium looks out at his wife’s grave, and as the films end with him (also) reading a book, but he’s looking forward to going back to Parliament on the strength of invitation from the aging Duke of St Bungay. Life goes on. And men get more choices than women.

It seems characteristic of both Raven and Trollope’s Alices that this pictured figure should not openly writhe, but rather lose herself in reading. If I’m not mistaken, this is the same book of poems from which Lady Glen read earlier in the part, and Alice is now reading Tennyson’s sexual erotic poetry with intense absorption. What a beautifully luxurious room. Gilded. Regal. A coat of arms on the stained glass windows. Church-like. On one table a gold sand-glass. The candelabra. Palms. A lovely green inside garden. A bit uncomfortable though I should think.

As I wrote Saturday, the Duke of St. Bungay (Roger Livesey) is introduced in 2:3 for the first time, and unless I mistake, Raven takes out time for a gay joke or pun with the good Duke’s name: the Duke tells Lady Glen to pronounce his name Ben-g-eye, not Ben-gay. Lady Glen says what does it matter? but to the Duke it does seem to matter. So what was Raven’s attitude towards this exemplary Trollope figure?


Posted by: Ellen

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