Costume Drama Thursday: NORTH & SOUTH (Gaskell)
It appeared to Mr. Thornton that all these graceful cares were habitual to the family; and especially of a piece with Margaret. She stood by the tea-table in a light-coloured muslin gown, which had a good deal of pink about it. She looked as if she was not attending to the conversation, but solely busy with the tea-cups, among which her round ivory hands moved with pretty, noiseless daintiness. She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the re-placing of this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh; and then to mark the loosening—the fall. He could almost have exclaimed—“There it goes, again!” There was so little left to be done after he arrived at the preparation for tea, that he was almost sorry the obligation of eating and drinking came so soon to prevent his watching Margaret. She handed him his cup of tea with the proud air of an unwilling slave; but her eye caught the moment when he was ready for another cup, and he almost longed to ask her to do for him what he saw her compelled to do for her father, who took her little finger and thumb in his masculine hand, and made them serve as sugar-tongs. Mr. Thornton saw her beautiful eyes lifted to her father, full of light, half-laughter and half-love . . .
When Mr. Thornton rose up to go away, after shaking hands with Mr. and Mrs. Hale, he made an advance to Margaret to wish her good-bye in a similar manner. It was the frank familiar custom of the place; but Margaret was not prepared for it. She simply bowed her farewell; although the instant she saw the hand, half put out, quickly drawn back, she was sorry she had not been aware of the intention. Mr. Thornton, however, knew nothing of her sorrow, and, drawing himself up to his full height, walked off, muttering as he left the house—“A more proud, disagreeable girl I never saw. Even her great beauty is blotted out of one’s memory by her scornful ways.”
North & South Chapter 10, by Elizabeth Gaskell
(Click here to listen to actor Greg Wise read this scene from the novel.)
If I ever go back for another master’s degree (which would be either in Rhetoric or in Literary Criticism) or a Ph.D., I already know that my thesis/dissertation would be some kind of a comparison between Pride & Prejudice and North & South. And I have to thank Ruth for introducing me to the latter. If it weren’t for her, I would have missed out on this precious gem of a costume drama and the uber-sexy Richard Armitage.
The piece playing over these scenes, “Northbound Train,” is one of my favorite pieces of music ever!
Here’s a scene that is one I would focus on in my dissertation comparison of P&P and N&S:
And here’s the scene where, if you weren’t already in love with John Thornton/Richard Armitage, you fell in love with him:
Aside from the fact that I can totally understand why, in the early 19th century, men were not supposed to appear in their shirt-sleeves in front of women as it was too tantalizing (it was considered the equivalent of being seen in one’s underwear), the transformation in these two characters and the development of their relationship from mutual loathing (but still finding each other attractive) to the passion of being free to admit they love each other is what makes the ending so spectacular. Plus, a lot of my favorite BBC movies are really stingy with the kisses.
Richard Armitage on his role in North & South:
John Thornton (Richard Armitage) and Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) in North & South