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The Old Priory > Narrative by Arthur Tresize

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message 1: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Set in England in 1590, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, this book begins with Arthur Tresize's story. Arthur, a 27 year old sailor, is a self-professed landlubber. He obtains money through the fantastic scheme of a mysterious noblewoman and buys land and builds a house in Ockley, Suffolk County.


message 2: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments I find Arthur Tresize one of the easiest of NL's characters to actually physically visualise for some reason. Tall ( "too tall for a sailor really ")and with that wonderful hair...


message 3: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Yes, the striking chestnut hair that is so popular with NL and plays a key role immediately.


message 4: by Barbara (last edited Nov 13, 2011 04:21PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments I do like the recurring themes in NL, and another of hers as we all know, is animals. The immediate introduction of the hopeful dog who Arthur gives titbits is so endearing.
And another, of course, is love-at-first-sight or almost first sight. It the Lady's courage in the face of what appears to be rejection that makes Arthur turn to his 'task'.

Has anyone ever heard of a real life or fictional account of the way The Lady sets about getting an heir (or a rather a baby who could pass for the heir)?And does anyone else think that Arthur could, if he really tried have found out who she was? Though what then could he have done, I guess.....


message 5: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments Arthur is a very likeable fellow, too, not looking for trouble, but going about his duties while enjoying his time on land. He seems to be a very honest and conscientious worker. I think he even hated to subject the rats to his poison test.

I have the impression that royalty have tried to beget heirs this same way, but couldn't name any. I think Arthur could definitely have found the Lady if he tried. Didn't he even think it in his mind when the old woman was taking her roundabout route? I think he gave up the idea because the Lady so matter-of-factly (coldly?)rejected his proposal of marriage.


message 6: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments Yes I think he could have too. Did you think her rejection cold ? Perhaps so, but I thought she was driven by pragmatic concerns adn to the end of her days thought of him and wondered .......

Now, the big question . Who do you think supplied the poison cakes, Marie on her own, or by order of The Lady?


message 7: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments I vote for Marie because I want it to be her decision, but I do think in my heart that the Lady could have agreed to it to protect her interests, even though in the years to come she may have wished for things to be different.


message 8: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Touching back briefly on NL themes, the Lady also had the ability to cry beautifully.

There is something about Arthur that reminds me of Ephorus in How Far to Bethlehem?; Arthur's love for the Lady and his appeal that they would be happy on the farm that he can buy for 200 pounds reminded me of Ephorus trying to convince Dorcas to marry him and the rejection was certainly similar.

I would like to think it was Marie's idea to supply the poison cakes but the Lady was so desperate to retain her title and wealth, I would vote for a collaboration.

Here is what Wikipedia says regarding red hair: "Redheads constitute approximately 4 percent of the European population. Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads; 13 per cent of the population has red hair and approximately 40 per cent carries the recessive redhead gene. Ireland has the second highest percentage; as many as 10 per cent of the Irish population has red, auburn, or strawberry blond hair.

Such a small pool of eligible men to draw on for the proper hair color for the heir!


message 9: by Barbara (last edited Nov 14, 2011 11:06PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments And it needed to be a particular shade of dark chestnut too !

I too wanted it to be Marie, but fear The Lady, if not actually collaborating, turned a blind eye to its commission.

I never thought of the similarity of the Arthur-Euphorus situation before, but you are right Pegs. But Arthur was far harder than Ephorus when rejected wasn't he? No Jacob-like servitude for him , nor descent into wine-sodden misery. Actually, now I think of it, Arthur's later life put me in mind of Mr Sandell( ?) , in Merravey, he who came back rich from India and bought Merravey. He was Ok with his son, though deploring his sensitive nature , but was utterly awful to his daughter (Olivia?). His wife had left him in India for an Indian poet....


message 10: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl | 68 comments I think such an expedient must certainly have been attempted many times, although I don't know of a case. It was alleged that James Stuart, son of James II, was a substitute baby, smuggled into the bedroom in a warming pan, which is a similar approach to solving the problem of getting an heir. And there must surely have been infertile couples who were desperate for a child, just as there are today. They'd only need to go to such an extreme step if it were also necessary that no one would challenge the child's inheritance - or to avoid scandal. More commonly, I think, they'd take in the child of some relative or connection who was poor and had a very large family, or who died leaving orphans.That, I've known of in living memory.

Inheritance laws varied, too - it was (is?) sometimes the case that any child concieved during a marriage was considered legally the child of the husband no matter who the biological father was, but obviously this lady didn't want her inlaws to have any chance to discredit her or question the baby's origin.


message 11: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Barbara, Arthur did take a different, more ambitious path than Ephorus. I haven't read all of NL's books but Mr. Sandell is the character I detest the most (more than Mr. Draper from Lovers All Untrue) for his treatment of his daughter.

Cheryl, good example about the incident of the supposed baby smuggling in the warming pan. The point too about taking in a relative--we see a lot of that in NL's books.

I have reached chapter 4 and there have already been numerous instances of bad luck connected, according to the townfolk, with a curse on the Old Priory. Parson Ambrose, who lived in the priory when it was a religious house, stoutly maintains it is all nonsense. Arthur has also become acquainted with our (favorite) attorney, Master Turnbull of Baildon.

One fairly common theme with NL has cropped up early in this book. When Athur is planning for the future, he thinks to himself: "I thought cheerfully . . . of taking a wife whom I should love and respect though I could never share with her the ecstasy I had known with my dark-haired enchantress." I have no patience with this attitude, common with the young men in so many of NL's books, that no woman can ever measure up to one particular woman. It's not a line of thinking that any of the women characters come up with and it seems so unfair that these men are going to marry but will always hold their wives as second best.


message 12: by Ayah (new)

Ayah | 26 comments Hi all,
Enjoying the discussion thus far.
If I remember right, Catherine de Medici was said to have attempted to become pregnant by another man because she hadn't become pregnant by the king for so many years.

I agree with Peggy regarding the irritating mindset of so many of NL's male characters; that a wife is one thing, while one's true love is another. I think, however, that this tendency is a sad reflection of the reality of the time (and even now).


message 13: by Sallie (new)

Sallie | 306 comments I agree with Ayah. The more things change the more they stay the same. In many cultures there is the wife for home and family and the "mistress" for fun and games. Wife should know this before going into the marriage and not complain about having an unfaithful husband - a la' Princess Diana. She has her kids and a roof over her head, food on the table provided. Let's not quibble about the small stuff. Perhaps with the men it is a case of the grass is always greener? Pine for the lost love.


message 14: by Peggy (last edited Nov 18, 2011 07:23PM) (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Ayah and Sallie, thanks for joining in.

Ayah, thank you for validating my thoughts and reminding us that this is a sad reality! I don't know much French history but will have to look up Catherine de Medici.

Sallie, Diana was someone I had thought of when writing the post. When she died, I remember Dan Rather saying that the great tragedy of her life was that her prince didn't love her.

Keep in mind that the theme of a curse is significant to this book. Almost immediately, Arthur had an amazing run of bad luck upon buying the Old Priory.

Even Samson, a level-headed down to earth person, had sensed something was wrong with the site and asked Arthur if someone had ill-wished him. How does everyone feel about curses? It will be interesting to see how this plays out as we go through the narratives.


message 15: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl | 68 comments I'm not sure that a great romantic love is essential for a happy and successful marriage - and I'm sure that back at the time the book was set, it certainly wasn't seen as such (well, except maybe by some radical thinkers!)

You might be passionately in love with someone you couldn't marry for one reason or another - s/he turned you down, died, was married to someone else (in the pre-divorce days, anyway!). So you picked youself up, found another spouse you respected and liked, and built your life on that relationship. I think myself the idea that there is only one true soulmate you can make a happy life with is wrong, and certainly for this to work your potential spouse has to know and accept the idea that marriage can have other forms that the passionate adoration followed by happy ever after form. I think the possibility that one spouse didn't manage that kind of marriage; couldn't quite do his or her duty to the second person was well-known. Some women didn't want to marry a widower for fear he hadn't finished mourning the first wife and would forever after be comparing the second one to her dead rival - and you can't win that kind of competition for someone's affection.

I don't know if it's appropriate to mention another author here, but Georgette Heyer's 'A Convenient Marriage' is a take on exactly this situation - a young man is passionately in love with a young woman, but must marry the plain and boring daughter of a rich merchant because his father has just died, leaving him nearly penniless and responsible for the support of his mother and sisters.

Of course, being a romance novel, it all works out in the end, but quite realistically, he never does feel the same kind of passion for his wife as he did for the woman he wanted to marry.


message 16: by Ayah (new)

Ayah | 26 comments I agree that the idea of a single soulmate for everyone is wrong. I also agree that the notion that one must be desperately in love in order for a marriage to work is a lot of hooey as well. Some people make balanced, rational decisions in choosing a spouse and it works out beautifully.
What I wrote previously was more a take on the overarching idea that one's real love and one's wife are never the same person, rather than an assertion that romantic love is necessary for a happy marriage. That is, I meant the idea that some women are "wife material," and one reveres such women, while other women are "love" material and one spends all one's passion on those women, while for the wives, there's only duty and boredom. This attitude is detrimental to women in both categories.
I've not read any Georgette Heyer, but have seen her mentioned on this board, so will definitely be looking for her novels.


message 17: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl | 68 comments Kind of a variation on the old virgin/whore stereotype, you mean. It's certainly possible. The virtuous wife at home and the not-so-virtuous and much more compelling mistress somewhere else.


message 18: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Ayah and Cheryl, such good insights! Made me recall that the good wife versus the fun mistress was a mind set for years (Victorian England esp. comes to mind).


message 19: by Barbara (last edited Nov 21, 2011 10:53PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments Cheryl wrote: "I'm not sure that a great romantic love is essential for a happy and successful marriage - and I'm sure that back at the time the book was set, it certainly wasn't seen as such (well, except maybe ..."

I know I'm straying even farther from the topic, but in Georgettes Heyer's book ( btw it is A Civil Contract , not The Convenient Marriage ) the plain bride is anything but boring and the bridegroom does in the end come to see that The Beauty actually was the boring one and also comes to love his wife in a sincere and mature way.
Sorry, just had to defend my fav GH!


message 20: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl | 68 comments Yes, you're right! I should have checked the title. 'A Convenient Marriage' is the one about the young woman from a comparatively poor background who marries an older richer man thinking he just wants a 'convenient' wife when in fact he's infatuated with her.

As for the other one - I was thinking about the beginning, when the bridegroom first met his prospective bride, he thought she was a plain, dumpy, boring woman who hardly opened her mouth. It took him some time to learn her true value, and to realize how superficial and selfish the Beauty really was under her charming manners and extroverted personality.


message 21: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Barbara, I knew the Georgette Heyer comments would perk up your ears! I believe I might have to try some of her books next based on your and Cheryl's comments.

I believe everyone has finished Arthur's narrative; it's fairly short, only four chapters. In summary, I think NL did a good job getting us started with the story. Have we lost anyone's interest in continuing the story and if so, why? The encounter with the Lady was an unusual and imaginative twist. I can't help feeling we haven't heard the end of her story. It was a bit of a stretch, though, to believe that the masons' moonlight ceremony healed Arthur's collarbone and I'm not sure what the intent of that episode was, other than to add a supernatural touch.


message 22: by Barbara (last edited Nov 22, 2011 07:27PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments Nicely brought back on topic Peggy! ! ( as you can see both Cheryl and I are GH fans and I'm sure you will be too)

I wondered about the Masonic thing too . NL utilises the the supernatural element so often though, you may well be right, it was just another of those instances . I always understood the Masons to employ some esoteric, even mystical stuff in their rituals, but this seems downright supernatural. Perhaps some ex-Mason will tell us............?

I agree Peggy, it's probably time to move on to Lettice. I like Lettice, and I'm keen to hear a what other have to say about her and her father and his wives and dovecotes etc etc.


message 23: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments The "cleansing" ritual by the masons reminded me of the sacrifice Merravay needed when it was finished in Bless This House. I like to think of Norah Lofts as a student being fascinated by studies of the Druids and the Vikings and all the other beliefs that were imported to ancient England.

I am already into Lettice's account, too. Her own sense of independence comes forth early in life as she loses her deepest admiration for her handsome father when he imprisoned his third wife, even though she had been a cruel woman.


message 24: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 873 comments Sylvia, good point with the comparison to Bless This House and also your reminder that NL often incorporates little bits of ancient English history throughout her stories.


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