Skip to content

Costume Drama Thursday: NORTH & SOUTH (Gaskell)

Thursday, October 7, 2010


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—β€œThere 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—β€œA 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

44 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, October 7, 2010 5:54 am

    *heaving huge sigh* Wow…what a way to start the day! Thank you! I started N&S in the summer but never finished it. These 2 characters where not in it, so I suppose I didn’t get far enough into it to really get the good stuff. You’ve convinced me to continue on!

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:45 am

      Sherrinda, it sounds like you were watching the other N&S miniseries…?

      Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 11:59 am

      Were there characters named Orry Main and George Hazard in the North and South you were reading? Set in South Carolina and Pennsylvania in the late 1830s? Wrong N&S. πŸ˜‰

      Like

  2. Thursday, October 7, 2010 6:57 am

    Such a wonderful way to start the day! I love North and South. Just put it on hold at the library yet again.

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:52 am

      BTW, the interview with RA was wonderful. Love his favorite scenes in the movie!

      Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:00 pm

      I couldn’t imagine not owning this one! Hopefully there won’t be a long wait for you to get it.

      Like

      • Thursday, October 7, 2010 5:06 pm

        I’m hoping I’ll get it as a Christmas present. Until then the library will have to do. I won’t be waiting at all. It’s on the hold shelf right now.

        Like

  3. Patty Hall permalink
    Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:06 am

    I saw North and South offered on Netflix and have it in my on demand queue right now! May have to take a day and just enjoy!

    Like

  4. Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:19 am

    LOVE North and South…and this just makes me want to watch it all over again!! πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:03 pm

      It was really hard for me to not pull it out and watch it yesterday as I was putting this post together. But I promised myself that would be one of my rewards for getting The Art of Romance finished next week.

      Like

      • Thursday, October 7, 2010 1:22 pm

        That is great incentive for, well, anything! πŸ™‚

        Like

  5. Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:47 am

    I hadn’t heard anything about North and South before I watched it on Netflix but it quickly became one of my favorite movies of all time! I agree with you that the music is fantastic- it is so evocative and moving (I especially love the opening where the feathers are flying in the factory.)

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:05 pm

      At one time, Ruth had found a place where we were able to download the soundtrack from N&S. I could listen to “Northbound Train” over and over and over.

      (And that’s actually cotton flying around in the air in that scene, not feathers. I know several people who, for the longest time, thought it was snowing—that they were showing just how horrible the working conditions are by showing that the roof was so bad that it would snow that heavily even inside the factory!)

      Like

  6. Thursday, October 7, 2010 9:11 am

    I just want to say that I thought I was the only historical movie junky! I have discovered that there are historical book junkies out there and a few historical movie likers, but now I KNOW there are others like me! πŸ™‚

    I love North and South, about as much as Pride and Prejudice. It has the same elements just packaged a little different. To me a great chick flick has to encompass the P&P elements of friction, attraction, conflict, realization, solution, and submission between the two main charactors of the love story. The art is packaging in different ways. When one of these are left out almost always, and I put in ‘almost’ to leave room for error even though I have not found one yet, the book or movie is not complete in my heart. I have watched P&P and N&S at least 30 times and I just can’t get enough of those elements in the same movie to draw me like they do.

    I have over 30 historical fiction moives in my personal collection and Netflix, DVR, and rent others when I can. I love reading your thoughts on the historical movies and books. Thanks for not leaving me alone out here in the world. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:06 pm

      Glad you don’t feel quite so alone now in your love of costume dramas and historical fiction, Gail!

      Like

  7. Kav permalink
    Thursday, October 7, 2010 9:47 am

    This is soooo not fair. I’m reading this at work and can’t watch the clips AND I’m still on the waiting list for North & South at my library. I’m currently #23 in the queque and no matter where I go everyone is buzzing about this movie! Aaaaarggghhhhh!

    Like

  8. Thursday, October 7, 2010 9:58 am

    THUD. Honestly, I just can’t get enough of this N&S business. I was even telling my editor about it in Indy. She hasn’t seen the film or read the book, bless her! Wonderful post. Just what I needed before I’m off to Editville:)

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:08 pm

      And I’m counting on the ever-growing number of enthusiasts for this film to really help out in my bid to bring early-Victorian settings to the CBA historical romance market, so the more we can get CBA editors falling in love with it, the better!

      Like

      • Thursday, October 7, 2010 1:24 pm

        Excellent plan! πŸ™‚

        Like

      • Debra E. Marvin permalink
        Thursday, October 7, 2010 4:03 pm

        Kaye, one of my reasons for getting N and S on Netflix was because of the time period. I’m writing in 1837. that leaves me between Regency and the majority of the Victorian period (I do include the day Victoria is named queen). So I too, love anything that bridges that period of history!

        The Young Victoria should help, eh?

        Like

  9. Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:03 am

    Thanks my dear friend Laura, I, too, have gotten hooked on North and South. Loved your post, Kaye, and I think the idea for the dissertation is excellent. Not only would it be fascinating, the research would also be quite enjoyable. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:11 pm

      Thus the whole reason for wanting to choose that topic for advanced study!

      In my undergraduate literary criticism course, I did my thesis on “Wealth and Social Status as a Theme in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice” mainly because I didn’t have to read the book—after having already read it a dozen times by then—and because I’d already read (for enjoyment—how sick am I?) some critical essays about those topics in the book.

      Of course a couple of years later, when I came up with an idea of a historical romance set during that time, it meant all of that research for my novels was already done!

      Like

  10. Sylvia M. permalink
    Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:33 am

    I love the N&S book (have read it four times) and think the mini-series is just wonderful! Talking about a P&P/N&S comparison here is a humorous conversation between John Thornton and Mr. Darcy that always makes me LOL!

    http://www.foolishpassion.com/humor/darcy-thornton-conversation.html

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:55 am

      I am cracking up over that conversation, thanks for sharing it!

      Like

  11. Debra E. Marvin permalink
    Thursday, October 7, 2010 11:01 am

    Oh dear. I do so need to focus on work but how I can I not speak up about my favorite mini-series. I purchased it last year after falling in love with it. Loved the book, love the soundtrack, the cinematography, the setting, the story line, the actors. I’ve forced friends to sit through it while I explain every I love about it, every foreshadowing, every subtext in dialogue, every look between John and Margaret.
    I found it was filmed in historic Edinborough and if I ever get to Scotland I will go there and walk down those steps where Margaret first encounters the factory workers!

    Oh, this is a sad state of affairs, but I have a still from the movie as my desktop photo and say goodnight to Margaret and John each evening upon retiring. Is that devotion or do I need to see a therapist?

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:24 pm

      I’ll share the therapist time with you and talk to the therapist about how I’m convinced that I’m married to Oded Fehr in one alternate universe and Karl Urban in another.

      Like

  12. Sylvia M. permalink
    Thursday, October 7, 2010 11:10 am

    Here’s an interview with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denbe-Ashe that was done just a couple of years ago. If I understand correctly it was taken from a documentary about period dramas and how they have evolved over the years. It’s called “Affairs of the Heart” or something like that. Even after all these years they still talk about the chemistry they had.

    Like

  13. Thursday, October 7, 2010 2:54 pm

    This is for Sylvia or Kaye or maybe no one can help at all. A month or so ago I found the soundtrack for N&S available online through a blogger via VOX. Last week VOX shut down for good. So did my laptop! VOX had 2 links for downloading the soundtrack and I never copied them down so that precious info was lost.

    Does anyone have a link or any info for the N&S score? I know it’s out there someone. Still very unhappy with myself for not taking time to write those 2 links down. My playing Northbound Train over and over isn’t quite the same.

    Anyway, if you have any ideas, would love to hear them.

    Like

  14. Traci permalink
    Thursday, October 7, 2010 4:52 pm

    I have never seen this movie nor read the books, but the clips and book portion make me want to do both. Thanks for the post. I watch the version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly often and I love it. Good clean romance takes my breath away!

    Like

  15. Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:40 pm

    OHHHHH, Sylvia!!! You are so awesome!!! I just KNEW you would know!! Going there now (in absolute bliss:) Thank you so very much!!!!!

    Like

    • Sylvia M. permalink
      Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:14 pm

      You’re welcome! Glad to be of service.

      Like

  16. Thursday, October 7, 2010 9:09 pm

    Ughhhh. Everywhere I go in the last few years I hear about this mini-series. Y’all are killing me. I’ve GOT to find this so I can quit being a N&S loser.

    Like

    • Thursday, October 7, 2010 9:14 pm

      If you have Netflix, it’s available to Watch Instantly.

      Like

      • Sylvia M. permalink
        Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:13 pm

        Ask your local library or another county library to order the N&S DVD. That’s what I did. πŸ™‚ Our libraries are very, very good about that sort of thing. It also helps that one of my sisters, a woman who attends our church, and a good friend of our family all work there! I’m always requesting new Christian fiction books there. Sometimes I do it even if I already have bought the book.

        Like

  17. Patty Hall permalink
    Friday, October 8, 2010 10:57 pm

    OH MY!!!

    Finally sat down and watched this lovely movie and all I can say is WOW! The first two hours were slow but when Margaret took that rock to the head, things got interesting!!!! By the fourth hour I was on the end of my seat, and I’ll admit it–I cried just a bit at the last scene. IT WAS JUST SO BEAUTIFUL!!

    Thanks for recommending it–I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

    Like

  18. Tuesday, October 12, 2010 12:44 pm

    This is seriously the best movie BBC has ever done! I LOVED every moment of it. Richard Armitage should play the hero in every romantic movie LOL!

    Like

Join the Discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: