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The Old Priory > Narrative by Lettice Tresize, Part Two & Part Three

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message 1: by Peggy (last edited Nov 12, 2011 10:34AM) (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 874 comments I thought we would add a topic for each part and that way we will avoid spoilers for people reading at different speeds.


message 2: by Barbara (last edited Nov 28, 2011 10:02PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments I do like Lettice - she is capable of such great feats ( not all of them legal as will be seen later) She is very much her father's daughter isn't she, brave and resourceful and once she loves someone, will do almost anything for them - tho again, see later re her (half ) brother.
There is a quality of utter determination about her too, like Arthur and his amazing treatmant of Simon's - admittedly awful - mother. How different might she have been if she had been loved and treated loyally by Philip Wentworth I wonder?


message 3: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 874 comments By the time Arthur's son Simon is born, the comment is made that Arthur's hair is almost completely white. I would put Arthur's age around 45 by then. Life has not been easy for him, but I would have thought he was a strong enough character to not allow his third wife to completely run over his household and abuse his daughter. The best he could do for Lettice was arrange for her to stay with relatives for a while. I think "utter determination" is a good description of her character and it is admirable that she had such a loving attitude toward her half brother--and that she could manage to feel pity toward her stepmother!


message 4: by Ayah (new)

Ayah | 26 comments One of the things I love best about NL's novels is her strong--if not always likable--female characters. I like to think this is a reflection of our author's own qualities.


message 5: by Sylvia (new)

Sylvia (sylviab) | 1361 comments The mention of sending Lettice to stay with relatives, and then abruptly taking her to Oxney confused me. Maybe Arthur had no trusted relatives to draw upon.

In comparing Lettice to the other girls at Oxney, she seemed to be the only one who considered her pregnancy as her baby, and not just an inconvenience. Didn't NL give us a fairly clear indication that the babies were not "apprenticed" but were killed at birth?


message 6: by Barbara (last edited Nov 30, 2011 01:23PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments Wasn't Arthur a younger/youngest son? I seem to remember that , tho I cant find it on re-reading . He came from Devon and worked "for the first 13 years of his life" on a farm. Certainly no family he would have considered sending Lettice too. Yet he consults with "aunt Margaret " as to what to do with Lettice when she confesses her pregnancy, and Oxney is suggested because "your cousin Marian was in the same plight" .
I think he was furious, coldly furious because Lettice was jeopardising all his plans and because he thought what she has done was stupid - I don't think he cared much about the morality aspect of her having unmarried sex so much as her choice of partner and allowing herself to get pregnant and then abandoned . He had become a very hard and unadmirable man by this time don't you all think? And I do agree with Peggy's comment above that it is very odd he allowed the awful third wife to tyrannise the household.

I think, BTW that babies at places like Oxney were not outright murdered, but rather were so indiffently treated that they mostly simply died of neglect, the poor little things ( comes to the same thing morally of course!)


message 7: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 874 comments Barbara, you are right that Arthur was the youngest son; it took a bit to find it; it's right after his meeting with Mr. Turnbull to buy the land: "I'd been twelve when my father told me that naturally Edgar would inherit the farm. Stephen would continue with his education and Henry would be apprenticed to a saddler in Exeter." I don't remember if we are told what area he came from but figure it must be quite a distance from Ockley if he didn't make any further contact.


message 8: by Peggy (last edited Dec 02, 2011 04:12PM) (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 874 comments I've just reached the point with Arthur adds a wing to each side of the house and a deep front porch--Lettice is 22. Here's something I completely overlooked in a previous reading:

"This porch was . . . made as far as possible from the curved pieces (of stone) which had been lying about since the Priory was demolished. . . . there were gargoyles amongst this stone debris, and when our porch was completed, a very well carved but hidden devil looked down on all comers."

Now that gives me shivers!


message 9: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 874 comments Reading of Lettice's romance with Philip, Simon's tutor, it reminds me of Marion and Johnny from Lovers All Untrue. Did anyone else feel this way? And the description of Simon as a baby reminds me of one of NL's short stories, La Virgin Con Bambino from Heaven in Your Hand; the description of Angelo is almost identical.

I realize this was one of NL's last books and there are several little bits that remind me of other books.


message 10: by MaryC (new)

MaryC Clawsey | 701 comments I hadn't put Philip and Johny explicitly together, but something about Philip did seem familiar. The poor lover who won't marry the girl he has made pregnant unless there's money in the package is a familiar type! Like many other writers (including Shakespeare and Jane Austen), NL did tend to use the same motifs more than once and create variations on a theme.

Re Barbara's and Sylvia's comments yesterday, it seems to me that the mention of sending Lettice to stay with relatives was just a cover-up for where she was really being sent, and the "cousin Marian" was a maternal cousin, a Turnbull. As for allowing his third wife to tyrannize the household, well, she did give him his longed-for son, and she didn't leave him for another man.

The babies? Remember when Lettice asks the sisters who run the establishment where the babies are placed to be cared for, and they exchange strange looks? I supposed then that the babies just didn't live long enough to be placed anywhere, and I'm sure that that's what Lettice concluded.


message 11: by Barbara (last edited Dec 03, 2011 12:38AM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments Yes, there was no way Lettice was being really sent to relatives - it was the usual story when girls were sent to Oxney type places ( having "got themselves pregnant " to use a common phrase that still makes me so angry !!! ) . Sending away to 'stay with relatives ' was stil the eupehmism in use when I was young . It fooled no one really, but the appearances were kept up and no-one could be absolutely sure the unfortunate girl had been pregnant. So long as she kept her pain and loss hidden of course ......


message 12: by Barbara (last edited Dec 06, 2011 07:41PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments I have just finished NL's Emma Hamilton . It is SOO good , I was sorry to finish it . There is a scene in it, where Emma takes the newborn Horatia, Nelson's child, to a Mrs Gibson to take care of her (NOT an Oxney situation!) and she takes her concealed in her huge fashionable muff, a plot device she uses in Day Of the Butterfly .
Also, because Emma Hamilton takes Horatia herself , within a week of the birth, it adds to the fiction that Horatia cannot be her child as Emma would be in bed a month had she just given birth .
NL uses the idea for Lettice in OP when she brings Alan back saying she found him in a ditch, and has the housekeeper stoutly defending the idea he could be hers saying 'his navel wasn't healed and she on horseback!


message 13: by Debbie (new)

Debbie | 46 comments Barbara wrote: "I have just finished NL's Emma Hamilton . It is SOO good , I was sorry to finish it . There is a scene in it, where Emma takes the newborn Horatia, Nelson's child, to a Mrs Gibson to take care o..."

Barbara,I'm confused--is Emma Hamilton fiction or non-fiction? Either way, you've made me want to read it! I've actually never read *any* of NL's non-fiction, but one of the books I'm now waiting for is her Anne Boleyn book.


message 14: by Ayah (new)

Ayah | 26 comments A slightly fictionalized account of the life of the very real Emma Hamilton, if memory serves. Even before you read NL's version of events, it's well worth it to look into Emma's life.


message 15: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments Sorry everyone for diverting the flow from the proper topic ( I thought I was being a bit clever mentioning Lettice and the unhealed navel, but not enough , I do see. )
Ayah, may I amswer you in the NL titles section please? I would love to talk about her non fictions


message 16: by Peggy (new)

Peggy (peggy908) | 874 comments No need to apologize, Barbara, you were pointing out a link to another book and you made those of us who haven't read Emma Hamilton anxious to read it!


message 17: by Ayah (new)

Ayah | 26 comments Sure, I'll see you there!


message 18: by Jenny (new)

Jenny H (jenny_norwich) | 378 comments I have to say, I don't really believe in 'Oxney'. It depended on utter secrecy for its raison d'etre, so where on earth did it get its clients from? It couldn't exactly advertise in the press, could it? And yet it had a steady stream of rich unmarried mothers passing through its hands. Where were they all coming from?

Lettice's father only knew about it because her cousin had also 'fallen' and a family member had so far forgotten himself as to mention it to him - and that in itself doesn't seem likely. Were the middle-class maidens of Suffolk really all at it like rabbits, and why go to all that trouble and expense to keep a secret and then blab it?

It doesn't make any sense to me that Lettice would have taken her valuable jewels there, either.


message 19: by Barbara (last edited Feb 16, 2014 05:54PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) | 2098 comments Jenny wrote: "I have to say, I don't really believe in 'Oxney'. It depended on utter secrecy for its raison d'etre, so where on earth did it get its clients from? It couldn't exactly advertise in the press, coul..."

I agree re the jewels, but I do believe in Oxney. I think it and places like it were probably quite commonplace in that era before the dawn of Victorian prudishness - but no contraception at all. I think mammas would and did pass such info about covertly all the time. And I think the church would have assisted in many cases. Papas might not know, of course.


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