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The Town House Trilogy > The House at Sunset - Group Read

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message 1: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments This is to start our discussion.


message 2: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments The House at Sunset begins circa 1740 with Felicity Hatton's Tale and ends circa 1956 with Frances Benyon's Tale, quite a span of time to cover the seven parts of the book.

We'll dispense with spoilers, unless someone is participating that hasn't read the book before--please let us know.


message 3: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments Felicity Hatton ( with her quickness of spirit and inventiveness ) reminds me of Daisy in "The Day of the Butterfly "...both of them, from humble beginnings, end up in large houses ( although Felicity, through her father, unlike Daisy, has a legitimate claim to good breeding )...Felicity's poor mother's addiction to gin is a thread that runs through the Victorian age, where it was known as "mother's ruin ". In Felicity's tale, it is called " Madame Geneva, the sly bitch who held thousands of poor wretches in thrall and gained new slaves everyday ". ( Norah Lofts doesn't mince her words ! )Somehow you know from the beginning that both Daisy and Felicity will survive in the end, and make good, although it might not be in the way they wanted it.


message 4: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2110 comments Tanya wrote: "Felicity Hatton ( with her quickness of spirit and inventiveness ) reminds me of Daisy in "The Day of the Butterfly "...both of them, from humble beginnings, end up in large houses ( although Felic..."

Yes indeed, Drunk for a Penny, Dead Drunk for tuppence and not kidding!
Felicity is interesting isn't she , I like the idea of her dual personality as it were and through her streetwise side, we meet one of NL's wonderful tiny cameos - Fingers , abandoned as a tiny baby , brought up ( somehow) on the streets, making his petty criminal living as best he can, loyal to his friends and dying at Tyburn with a joke on his lips ...sigh .....


message 5: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Felicity's mother, Annabel, had marketable skills, dressing hair and washing and ironing fine clothing, both skills needed by the wealthy. Felicity was very proud of her mother's abilities and respected her, even though she dreaded one aspect of her father's good times - her mother then spent her energies in teaching Felicity how to act like a lady!

Fingers truly was one of NL's little heartbreakers. He was a natural leader and seemed to be kind, loyal, and fair to his gang. It was touching that Felicity considered her mother's ring as essentially a gift from Fingers, since he "did a job" with her to get the money she needed in order to keep the ring. She remembered all the days with the street gang as sunny ones.


message 6: by Donna (last edited May 25, 2017 07:42PM) (new)

Donna | 143 comments The comments about gin addiction sparked a Google search by me for information on Hogarth's etching on this topic, which I vaguely recalled from a long ago college art history class. I learned anew that it was printed in 1751 as "Gin Lane" in tandem with "Beer Street" and depicted failure of the Gin Act of 1736 to dramatically reduce consumption of gin (frequently laced with turpentine) by the poor. That act was finally abolished in 1743. By 1750 over a quarter of all residences in a London slum, St. Giles parish, were gin shops, run mainly in places that also received stolen goods and coordinated prostitution.

These two Hogarth prints also portray (according to one academic analysis) the middle class (beer drinkers) arising from a new unregulated market economy and doing so at the expense of the poor (gin drinkers). That critic points to only a sign painter and journeymen tailors actually working in their attic as all other figures reveled in the conclusion of their work in the Beer Street print. Meanwhile, figures in "Gin Lane" drank instead of working. When the prints were issued, wages of journeyman tailors were the subject of an ongoing dispute, which was finally settled by arbitration July 1751 in the journeymen's favor. I'm assuming that the apprentice seamstresses at that time did not benefit from this.

Hogarth's satire helped bring about he Gin Act of 1751, which prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants and was much more successful in reducing both production and consumption of gin, although not in eradicating it.

NL's historical accuracy in this book as well as her other work is stunning. She captures the essential features of a time period in her description of settings and her creation of realistic experiences and details of daily living. What broad and deep knowledge of history she possessed.


message 7: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Donna, your great research led me to look even further into what exactly is gin. Basically it is a liquor from distilled grain mash and juniper berries (aren't we talking pine here?) according to dictionary.com. Add turpentine to juniper berries, and you have to wonder how long the gin addicts survived.

I love your description of NL's work as "stunning." Very early in Felicity's story, NL wrote, "Real knowledge drifts into the mind imperceptibly. "

She was referring to Felicity's awareness by the age of five that on a slum street there were always two leaders, and the one to fear was the smaller one, but that simple concept could also be said of NL's writing intentions, to allow history to painlessly drift into the minds of her readers.


message 8: by Donna (new)

Donna | 143 comments Sylvia wrote: "Donna, your great research led me to look even further into what exactly is gin. Basically it is a liquor from distilled grain mash and juniper berries (aren't we talking pine here?) according to d..."
I agree, Sylvia. NL truly does allow history to painlessly drift into our minds. She was quite the wizard.


message 9: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments So often, in Norah Lofts, something is only gained by losing something, or vice versa, as it so often is in life. By this time, we are quite strongly in sympathy with Felicity and very much hope she won't have to become a dressmaker's apprentice to Mrs. Bellsize, when something even worse happens...she is saved from the lout who is trying to steal the bundle of her mother's laundry by the elegant young gentleman with the gold headed cane. Luckily, she hasn't forgotten her street training, so when she's once again assaulted by her so called saviour ( but this time with another intention in mind ), she manages to pretend to go limp, then knee him in the groin and escape. Immediately after, she is relieved to be able to confess to her father, who for once is at home and in funds, only to send him to his death in his brave attempt to avenge her, and so bring her full circle again to Mrs. Bellsize. This first section of the house at sunset certainly keeps us in suspense all the way !


message 10: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments And so began the grieving, the guilt, and Annabel's gin dependence, Felicity's hated apprenticeship, and the first mention of Mortiboys, the only place Barney had mentioned to a friend, and where his final possessions were sent after the fatal duel.


message 11: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Such interesting insights and comments from all! Donna and Sylvia, thanks for the background and research on gin. I was going to look it up as I wondered how it could be so addictive and destructive to destroy someone like Mrs. Hatton. That is one thing I especially love about Lofts' books--they are so grounded in her well done research but they always provoke curiosity to learn more.


message 12: by Barbara (last edited May 26, 2017 09:10PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2110 comments Yes I agree with you all, I have long thought NL the perfect example of not letting her research 'show' in the way many authors do by listing and pontificating on facts/events.
Like Felicity's, the knowledge NL imparts drifts into our consciousness, often so well that it impels us to find out or confirm more about the history and culture of the time our fictional characters inhabit.
And she is the mistress of the small scale tragedy, such as the fate of Felicity's father , 'Gentleman Johnny' seeking out her attacker and the descent of her poor mother into degradation and death as Sylva points out above.

So Mortiboys must be owned by one of Barbara Hatton's brothers, mustn't it ? Edward , one of them, became Canon Hatton, so this must be the oldest one. I don't remember the names except for Harry the youngest and Edward the Canon but it must be Barnabas - Barnabas is a family name from back in Henry 8ths day.
And his son , Christopher ( named for his own grandfather Christopher , Barbara's father) is Felicity's father.....no love lost obviously, for runaway gambling Christopher or his waiflike daughter, born in marriage or not!
Imagine Felicity's life had she gone to her grandfather at Mortiboys .... not Rupert and his rather corrupt household! And of course WE know she is not even biologically related to Rupert.


message 13: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Yes, it was Barnabas Hatton whom Rupert said was her grandfather at Mortiboys when Felicity came on the Baildon scene. I wonder when or why the Hattons became so mean? Annabel may have been right that Chris was the only truly friendly one of them.

It was fortunate that Felicity came to the Old Vine when Rupert was in one of his good moods. I can understand why Felicity lashed out at Rupert and Andrew after their insulting and condescending remarks, but I thought it was funny when Rupert described her as "an exotic specimen." At one point she likened his descriptions of her as "a French poodle." Rupert apparently enjoyed bandying words with this clever, outspoken female relative.

I am curious if, when Felicity feigned blindness, any of you tried to do the same, unblinking and pretending there was a black curtain in front of you? I tried it for only a few minutes and knew I would have been caught!


message 14: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments My greatest horror ( being a reader and a writer ) is of going blind....I've tried to simulate it many times and have been horrified...but I think that Felicity was not only terribly quick witted ( mostly because of her apprenticeship with Fingers ) but also desperate...remembering that, when she was angry or frightened, her pupils dilated (the opposite, she knew, happened when a candle was put in front of her eyes ) she worked herself up into a madly agitated state and passed the doctor's candle test with flying colours !


message 15: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Brave Felicity always did what she needed to do to survive and thrive. One of those twists of fate was that she held onto the treasured "green ring" that her mother asked her to sell years ago and then had something of value to sell to give her mother a proper burial.

Lofts describes small towns every where when Felicity goes to Baildon and we read this: "I then had my experience of life in London, where everyone is too busy with his own affairs to bother much about his neighbor's, and the country where other people's business is almost the sole source of entertainment."

When she goes to the Old Vine, she sees a picture of a young chestnut-haired girl that could have been herself as a child, another link to the past. Rupert admired how she stood up for herself and was generous to offer her a home--although you have to wonder what the response would have been if he didn't find her amusing!


message 16: by Sylvia (last edited May 30, 2017 07:24AM) (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Rupert was very quick to offer all that he had ("everything I have is yours") to people who currently fascinated him, but when that person went against his expectations, he flew into a rage. He did this with his "boy toys", with William Talbot, and with Felicity, and his rage with her finished him off.

If Rupert hadn't offered her shelter, Felicity might have gone on to Mortiboys to take her chances with her unforgiving grandfather, but she would have led a very lonely, uncolorful life there.


message 17: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments Yes, but Felicity always was a "chancer"...confronted by Rupert's sudden fascination for her, she said she felt like " one of those entertainers you sometimes see in public places balancing on the tip of a sword held by another person and juggling with plates ..." however, in the end, blood meant more than entertainment to Rupert, when he wrote his will....am I correct in thinking that Rupert was the Canon's putative son? The child genius on the violin? The Canon, then, must have been extremely wealthy for Rupert to live in the style he does, given that his own musical career was cut short in an untimely fashion....


message 18: by Barbara (last edited May 31, 2017 02:04AM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2110 comments Tanya wrote: "Yes, but Felicity always was a "chancer"...confronted by Rupert's sudden fascination for her, she said she felt like " one of those entertainers you sometimes see in public places balancing on the ..."

Yes Tanya, Rupert passed as the Canons son , indeed the Canon never positively knew any differently ( imagine , just imagine the scenes if he did! ) though he may have suspected of course. He had, according to Ethelreda who did the books, at least 15 thousand pounds when he died and very likely more, from stocks and shares . He must have left it all to Rupert and, I guess, some sort of pension for Ethelreda ( what happened to her , did we ever know? ) I wonder if he really did not accept that she had conceived Rupert by another man - who we know to be Christopher Kentwoode of course . 0r surely he would not have left Rupert all his money .....

And as for the issue that Peggy mentions ie
"When she (Felicity )goes to the Old Vine, she sees a picture of a young chestnut-haired girl that could have been herself as a child, another link to the past"
I believe I shall go to my grave puzzling over this ! I think I said in another thread , my latest theory is that Elizabeth Kentwoode's mother was a Hatton..


message 19: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 386 comments Barbara wrote: "Or surely he would not have left Rupert all his money ....."
He may not have left a will, of course, in which case the rules of intestacy would have applied.

I'm quite sure he knew Rupert wasn't his - his cruelty to Ethelreda and, in particular, his violent objection to Rupert's violin-playing (a talent Rupert inherited from his biological father) are evidence enough to my mind.


message 20: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 386 comments Sylvia wrote: "I am curious if, when Felicity feigned blindness, any of you tried to do the same, unblinking and pretending there was a black curtain in front of you? I tried it for only a few minutes and knew I would have been caught! "

Yes, me too, and I've always found this episode very hard to believe! Blinking is such an instinctive reaction, and the dilation of pupils even more so; it doesn't seem possible that anyone could suddenly learn to control them on the spur of the moment like that.


message 21: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 386 comments Tanya wrote: "...Somehow you know from the beginning that both Daisy and Felicity will survive in the end, and make good, although it might not be in the way they wanted it. "

Well, we know Felicity will survive to the end of the section, because it's she who's telling the story, but NL's character's rarely have real happy endings, do they?


message 22: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments I, too, am convinced that the Canon knew Rupert was not his son. He probably would have been proud of his son's musical abilities otherwise, and the illegitimacy was, in my mind, his reason for his cruelties and demands on Ethelreda. When Antony Flowerdew tried to discuss what he witnessed with her, she would only say that the Canon had good reason for his actions, and she seemed to accept the pain as if she deserved it.

So true, Jenny, about the lack of happy endings, but I do think they are more realistic than happy fairy tale endings. In recalling the books I have loved most, other than NL's, two that come to mind are Gone With the Wind and Green Dolphin Street, which suggest hope but not necessarily happiness.


message 23: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Peggy, speaking of the differences between city life and small towns, when the wagon driver and the other man discussed what Felicity should do in Baildon, one called children "little mawthers." Felicity had never heard the term before but knew it was an affectionate term. I love the term, too, and used it on some little guests lately.

Barbara, I can't remember reading anything about the background of Margaret, Elizabeth-of-the-painting's mother, at least in THAOV. I wonder if NL chose not to give us anything of her past. Maybe the coloring and looks that compared with the "angelic" Elizabeth's portrait came from the Kentwoode side.


message 24: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Barbara, i remember a statement in this book about Ethelreda taking care of the money for Rupert until he came of age and giving him everything he wanted, a factor in how strong willed he was about getting his own way in everything.

Sylvia, I don't recollect any other books where Lofts used the term "little mawther" but I'm sure this wasn't the first instance as I recognized it being an affection term.

So Felicity really loved George but wouldn't marry him since she learned he only become attentive to her when he found out she was Rupert's heir. It seemed to cripple her ability to love anybody else, though, a common theme with Lofts.


message 25: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments At least Felicity could have a sense of sarcastic humor about George, naming her favorite horse and dogs George, as well as her little black servant whom she had to let go (with a generous pay-out) because of area criticism. I think he cried all the way to London, knowing he would never again find such a wonderful job and boss.

Felicity's cynicism about love enabled her to make an unusual arrangement with a very independent wanderer. How many women of her century could have pulled that off?


message 26: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 386 comments Peggy wrote: "... I don't recollect any other books where Lofts used the term "little mawther" but I'm sure this wasn't the first instance as I recognized it being an affection term. "

It was within living memory the usual dialect word in Norfolk (where I'm from) and very likely Suffolk, for 'girl'. You only hear it now when people are deliberately speaking dialect for effect, rather than in everyday speech, but it wouldn't be surprising if NL used it elsewhere too. She might have avoided it in circumstances where the meaning wasn't explained, though, because it could easily be mistaken for 'mother'.

I've heard of it being related to the London word 'mort' meaning 'girl' or 'woman', which Georgette Heyer fans will be familiar with!


message 27: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Yes, Sybil, she definitely had a sense of humor and was generous and kind to many. I thought it was too bad that she tried to help out the apprentices with special meals and get-togethers but the town put a stop to it.

Jenny, isn't that interesting about "mawther", so good to get the local background.

Are we ready to talk about Felicity and Rancon Follett, the mysterious one-armed former musician--another fiddler whose career was cut short, although most likely not of the caliber of Rupert.


message 28: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Before we get to Felicity's request, what do you think of Rancon's statement that when he no longer wanted to live, he would do as his father did and just lie down and die?

Does anyone think we can will ourselves to die? I am skeptical about this. I have seen people struggling with mortal illness that were suffering and ready to die but their body kept going.


message 29: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments I think that this sort of willing oneself to die is confined to people in close contact with the earth and the natural cycle of the seasons -they function differently from people who live in the so-called "real " world....the closer you are to nature, the more in rhythm you are with it....while studying animals in the hills, where I live, it is so strange almost never to SEE a dead animal....when they know they are sick or dying, they simply find the deepest hiding place they can, and just die....the other members of the herd just move on. You hear of the same thing in Marcel Pagnol's novels about rural Provence in the 1900s, where not only animals, but also one of his anti-heros, Jean de Florette ( after having done all he could to make amends for a great crime ), simply dresses himself in his sunday clothes, lies on his bed, and dies. Rancon seems to be one of those truly "free" creatures, which Felicity immediately senses, knowing there is nothing to fear from him in the future, because he isn't at all like the townsfolk she knows.


message 30: by Sylvia (last edited Jun 03, 2017 03:03PM) (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments But I wonder if, in real life, people or animals know by the way they feel, physically and mentally, that the end is upon them, and they begin to shut down, to stop eating or caring for themselves, to help along the process? I have heard stories of old married couples who die within hours or days of each other.

I think Felicity was fortunate, in a way, to have Rancon land on her doorstep. He seemed to have a lot of admirable qualities - self-determination, a good work ethic, honesty, and a sense of honor. Even on a page, he was very likeable!

So Felicity succeeded in providing heirs for the Old Vine - fraternal twins! Interesting that we have another set of these in the Reed lineage. Did anyone else think of Ethelreda when we were told that Annabella had silver-gilt hair, even if short and curly?

On the site www.twins.uk.com they report that 2/3rds of twin births are fraternal, and of those, about 1/3rd are of opposite sex. They also report that a gene for fraternal twins can run in a woman's line.


message 31: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Tanya and Sylvia, two very plausible explanations!

My MIL was a fraternal twin but she and her brother had a strong resemblance to either each--same hair and eye color. I thought Annabella's silver gilt hair was unusual since her mother had the chestnut color hair and her father's hair was black but the description made her memorable as she was otherwise a somewhat wishy-washy personality to me. We get many reminders of how "eccentric" Felicity was from Aunt Dorothea now. Sad that Felicity died within three weeks of the twins' birth.

We hear a brief mention of the Barney we all remember as an adult in Jassy--Hatton mentions meeting the child as Chris's home. I like how Hatton continues his mother's custom of naming animals "George."


message 32: by MaryC (new)

MaryC Clawsey | 704 comments <
Sylvia wrote: "Yes, it was Barnabas Hatton whom Rupert said was her grandfather at Mortiboys when Felicity came on the Baildon scene. I wonder when or why the Hattons became so mean? Annabel may have been right t..."

Felicity's grandfather must have been Barbara's brother and therefore another child of Barbara's formidable, domineering mother. Would that have been enough to turn anyone mean?


message 33: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments There is such a wealth of incident crowded into Felicity Hatton's tale that the material is enough to have made a full length novel, don't you think ?
As for the twins, and their developing relationship, there is a parallel in "Gad's Hall ", where George Thorley is in love with Chloe Faulkner, who is only close to her brother Johnny ( I forget whether they were twins or not ? Sylvia I'm sure would know ! )...when Chloe ( beautiful but almost simple minded, and always protected by her brother, who has eyes and concern for no-one else ), is unhappily married, divorced, and then returns to her disapproving family,they pack her off by train to some aged relation in the far north. When she jumps off the train to her death, Johnny, on hearing of it, shoots himself with George's gun, because he has nothing else to live for.


message 34: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2110 comments I have been a bit AWOL and am just now catching up - such wonderful posts have been made !!

I think the Felicity's resemblance to Elizabeth Kentwoode must remain forever a mystery unless anyone wants to accept my idea that Barbara's mother was a Hatton )

And I still wonder that Canon Hatton left his considerable fortune to Rupert if he knew he wasn't his son. Perhaps though, his pride would not allow anyone to see him as a cuckold, even in death !

I take your point about Barbara 's mother being formidable Mary , but Barbara wasn't made mean by it , though she could be ruthless as we know .

I always think the way in which Felicity found out about George's perfidy is very poignant , because I do agree Sylvia, that she really loved him. And I love her revenge, though it must have still hurt . I hope he worried all his life about being actually legally married to a Peg-knock -on-the-wall-for-twopence .

Thank you for the 'mawther' material Jenny, I see on looking it up that no-one really knows where it comes from , how interesting ! I liked you Georgetet Heyer link too( "who's the swell mort then?!" says impertinent Jason the Tiger)

Yes I see the link too Tanya, in Felicity's twins and the Thorleys - I think you are right, not twins but very close in age -and other way too of course .


message 35: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments I think the Canon ( who was almost certainly impotent - remember the bruises on Ethelreda's arms ?) knew that Rupert wasn't his son, and spoilt him to torment his mother, but also forbad him to play his beloved violin, because that was a legacy from his birth father... But one of the most dramatic moments in that tale is the flaunting, triumphant music of Rupert's violin right after the Canon died. It is always great to pick up threads in one book that lead to other NL books...here, Chris Hatton has just lost Mortiboys ( mumble-mumble ) and gone to live at his wife's place at Green Farm; Nick Helmar has taken over Mortiboys and laid the seeds for his wife's desertion ( continued in " Jassy " ) and then Dilys Helmar's story is continued in " Nethergate "


message 36: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2110 comments Tanya wrote: "I think the Canon ( who was almost certainly impotent - remember the bruises on Ethelreda's arms ?) knew that Rupert wasn't his son, and spoilt him to torment his mother, but also forbad him to pla..."

Perhaps, though the Canon must have been potent at one time or Ethelreda could never have told him she was pregnant to him. The bruises I thought were from' ordinary/everyday' cruelty but I can easily imagine him, if impotent and trying and failing , plus at least suspecting Rupert's parentage .....
I take your point about spoiling him to torment Ethelreda - that would be quite in character!

Yes, I love that too, when you see a reference to something else you know and love , the Chris Hatton Mortiboys link for example , masterly when you know the other books !


message 37: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments In 1782, when she "came out", Annabella's looks were not in fashion, although her brother Hatton thought that she was very beautiful. It is interesting that NL looks at their relationship at one remove, so to speak...Hatton always speaks of his concern for, and affection for, Annabella as something perfectly normal in a brother...he doesn't want to keep her to himself; he wants her to be happy with some man who will look after her. However, as the story progresses, we shall see that his idea of taking care of Annabella will be quite difficult to live up to by any man ! Of course, they are twins ( although they look very different ), and left motherless at three weeks, which lends itself to co-dependency. Great-aunt Dorothea doesn't help matters by being exasperated by Annabella...


message 38: by Sylvia (last edited Jun 07, 2017 01:01PM) (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Tanya, I also like the inference that Hatton does have future plans of his own, to find a pretty, pleasant wife, have children, and maintain his beloved Old Vine. However, his plans are always deferred until Annabella can be happily settled. Instead, Annabella messes up everybody's plans by falling in love with a rogue and tossing away her own future. She not only causes Hatton much anguish, but destroys Aunt Dorothea's carefully laid plans for her as well. I was glad to see later that Dorothea emerges from the turmoil with some peace and happiness.

Barbara and Tanya, the link to another book that fascinates me is that the man Annabella falls for is the Sir Richard Shelmadine of "Afternoon of an Autocrat" (aka "The Devil in Clevely") His own father, Sir Charles (who dies when his horse meets Lady Alice's ghost in Layer Wood) considers Richard "the very devil" and when Richard is 30, finally kicks him out of the manor. With the fall in Layer Wood, Richard inherits Clevely Manor and comes home. Annabella's coming out was in 1782, and Richard Shelmadine inherited Clevely Manor around 1795. By the end of the Clevely saga, much deviltry occurs, so Annabella was blessed to be rejected by Richard. Yet through her marriage, she retained that love for the evil Sir Richard. I guess the mystery will continue through the ages of why women are sometimes attracted to wicked, dangerous men.


message 39: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments Yes, women have often fallen for the bad guys, the good looking devils...they say that a reformed rake makes the best husband ( just as the most boisterous pup in the litter, once trained, makes the best working dog ) but there are always the "congenital " rakes.....Richard, when he chooses a bride ( at his father Sir Charles's bidding ) the gentle, saintly Linda, a parson's daughter, writes to his father to tell him the news, and says, " she can make me laugh, and I can make her cry "...this is when Sir Charles knows there is no hope for his son and that marriage won't change him a jot.

There are also all the incidences in literature of brother/sister devotion and, often, incest. In the 1700s and 1800s, in far flung rural areas, due to lack of partners, brother and sister relationships often produced, they said, beautiful children. Of course, it was obligatory with the Pharoahs...

In John Ford's restoration play, " 'Tis Pity she's a Whore ", the beautiful Annabella is pregnant by her brother, and forced to marry. Her husband, on discovering her state, locks her up. It all ends in a bloodbath, but here it is set off by the jealous Giovanni stabbing Annabella as he kisses her.

Another famous incidence is of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy... they lived together, and she even gave him his wedding ring when he married Mary Hutchinson. The strong possibility of incest is never confirmed by historians, but their mutual devotion is never in doubt.

When they are twenty, Aunt Dorothea desperately wants Hatton to marry in the future, and when he tells her that he hasn't yet seen any woman he wishes to marry, she replies, " Nor will you, while you have eyes for nobody but your crazy sister "
Annabella is certainly headstrong and selfish, and when she marries at 21, her husband Tom Mallow is really in love with her, not to mention the huge loan Hatton gives him. What goes wrong is that Annabella is "absent " in a way Tom simply can't take. The problem is that, no matter how wayward Annabella is, Hatton's sympathies are always with her, and her burdens eagerly taken on by himself.


message 40: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments When Tom finally went mad with rage and jealousy and tried to take Annabella home by force, threatening the "harboring" Hatton with a lawsuit, I expected Hatton to remind Tom of that "loan," but it never came up.

I appreciated the incident of the ribbon excuse, when Hatton needed a plan for supposedly returning a forgotten package to her. Both had simultaneously come up with some forgotten blue satin ribbon. Hatton and Annabella concluded their relationship: (Annabella) "It was never as though somebody else was doing something for me; it was as though I were doing it for myself." (Hatton) "We were really one person, split by some accident of birth into two separate people."

Tanya, apparently Dorothea was right because I don't think Hatton ever did marry.


message 41: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Such good insights here! I didn't realize Richard was the same Shelmandine in Afternoon of the Autocrat.

There are certainly similarities between Hatton and Annabella's story and that of the brother and sister in Gad's Hall although that one ended tragically. Hatton and Annabella had a much more prosaic ending, living their lives in exile so they could remain together.


message 42: by Judy (new)

Judy | 23 comments I usually don't comment much, but had to chime in to let you all know how much pleasure I get from all the posts by all of you about these books. Norah Lofts' characters are so real that we become invested and entangled in their lives and struggles and stories. What a blessing!


message 43: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Hi Judy! So nice to see you on here. Please join in often and "entangle" us further! It is so true how much these characters really seem to live...they feel like our own ancestors!

Am I thinking correctly that with hatton Follett's selling of the Old Vine, Martin's house is now in hands other than his descendants, at least for this period? I know the Walkers had no connection.

Can we assume that Lydia's playmates, Ethel and Lizzie, are the lingering spirits of Elizabeth and Ethelreda?


message 44: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments It really seems that Hatton doesn't have much of a personality, except for his absorption in Annabella's drama of a life and his love for the Old Vine...remember how he looks at the house, from room to room, watching the angles of the light and the colours, and thinks he never wants to leave it ? But he does, and, in Italy in exile with Annabella, even after she dies an early death, all the fight seems to go out of him, and he just stays on for the rest of his life. It is ironic that he leaves all the business matters of the sale of the Old Vine etc in the hands of George, his mother's old enemy !...


message 45: by Jenny (last edited Jun 09, 2017 05:45AM) (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 386 comments Peggy wrote: "There are certainly similarities between Hatton and Annabella's story and that of the brother and sister in Gad's Hall"

And that of the C18th brother and sister in Bless this House where the sister is being forced into an unwanted marriage and her brother tries and fails to stand up for her. In fact, I always get those two stories muddled up and forget which pair come in which book!

I'm just reading BTH at the moment and was struck by Alice's description of her hair as short and very curly, 'like a lamb's pelt', just like Annabelle's; I wonder if NL knew someone with hair like that?


message 46: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 386 comments This whole story is desperately sad for Felicity, isn't it? Hatton just throws away what she literally died to pass on to him, whereas if she'd been content to leave it to a nephew or a cousin (not one of the gambling ones!) she might have lived to old age and the Old Vine might have continued as a cherished family home.

This is what I was thinking of when I commented earlier about things not really coming out all right for Felicity in the end. Yes, she got herself a comfortable home and financial security but died young in a cause that ultimately failed.


message 47: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments I guess the "NL-ian" twists and turns in her stories will never end in a logical or contented conclusian, Jenny. Maybe Felicity didn't have a trusted cousin or other relative that she could trust with this beloved old house. I don't remember any mentions (except for the gambling Hattons).

By inference, I think we can assume that, with Tom's threats of the law, and his regular lawyer, Steward, confirming the possibility of Jail for "harboring," that Hatton felt he had no choice but to run to save Annabella's life, and once his property was sold and his sister had died, he had no reason to return. If he hadn't been so eccentric, he might have found a nice Italian wife, eh NL?

It is so NL to leave us slightly frustrated that Hatton never learns of the true connection between George Turnbull and his mother's penchant for naming her animals "George..."! I love the twinkle-eyed reference Turnbull makes about the names to the uninformed Hatton. At least Hatton notices upon leaving that this lawyer's name IS George.


message 48: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 889 comments Judy, glad you are enjoying the posts. It's so much fun to see other insights and many in this group can refer the tie-in's to other books--wish I could do better at that. Her characters do become so real to us.

Tanya, I agree that poor Hatton's whole life was his devotion to his sister Annabella; I think NL made the point in another book that when twins are born, generally one person gets all the best points and the other is lacking (actually I am being a diplomat; it was expressed more as one person got all the smarts and the other was half-witted). If you think about it, Annabella is the one who came out getting her way in everything.

Jenny, you were thinking of Olivia in BTH; I can't think of the brother's name but oh, that despicable father. I had a similar thought about Felicity since she died three weeks after the twins' birth.

Syb, what an interesting idea that Ethelreda and Elizabeth were helping little Lydia. it would be in keeping with NL's touch of the supernatural. I haven't reached that point yet but I'll get there by this evening. I never thought about it but why didn't Hatton find a nice Italian wife!


message 49: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Mendonsa | 419 comments I think that Hatton's two passions were Annabella and The Old Vine...he says, " I loved my home, I loved every room in my house, every step in my own stairway, every bush and plant...."He loves the continuity of the house, but that's just what he doesn't get to savour till the end of a natural life; neither does his mother.
I think that these 2 passions simply occupied him to the exclusion of anything, or anyone, else....a "nice" Italian wife could never hope to compete !


message 50: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Come to think of it, Tanya, maybe Martin Reed left an imprint in the Old Vine. Even he never seemed to enjoy the house he had built; it seemed to be more of his "slap in the face" to the society that had rejected him. He worked till the end of his days, and I always picture him either outside or in the kitchen, but not really taking ownership of his grand house.


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