Archive for November, 2009

Review: “Garrow’s Law”, BBC1: Episode 4 -“Will Success Spoil William Garrow?”

If the BBC doesn’t commission a second series of this brilliant show, I shall take my scissors and use the TV licence to cut a silhouette of Mr. Southouse.

The fourth and (so far) last episode of “Garrow’s Law” dealt with autoerotic asphyxia, angel lust and mentions of self-mutilation, all in the first two minutes of the programme. Add to that the uncomfortable tale of the government’s actions against 18th century (assumed) terrorism and freedom of expression, and you’ll find that laws might change, but human nature won’t.

William Garrow (Andrew Buchan) continues to defend the victims of rough justice when he wins the case of  Susannah Wagstaffe (Rebecca Palmer), a prostitute accused of murdering a client.

Garrow and Southouse’s (Alun Armstrong) association is still strained until a desperate Mary Hamer (Kate Dickie) arrives in Southouse’s office, begging for Garrow to defend her husband. Joseph Hamer (Paul Hilton) has been languishing in Newgate Prison without charge for many months after being arrested on suspicion of sedition. Joseph’s case is followed closely by the Secretary of State, Viscount Melville (Stephen Boxer), and Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves), who engineer charges of high treason against him.

Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal) admits to a devastated Garrow that they have no future together. After learning of her husband’s role in the plot against Joseph Hamer, she intervenes and the trial takes a surprising turn.

Episode four started with a Pythonesque scene in which Garrow tries to find a delicate wording for the fact that prostitute Susannah Wagstaffe’s  client died by autoerotic asphyxia. By means of a length of cord. Valued at 1 penny. Silvester (Aidan McArdle) obviously enjoys Garrow’s awkward struggle, and even Judge Buller awakes from his nap. After listening to Garrow muttering cryptical explanations about “centrical and critical parts” and “expressively evident results”, Buller ends Garrow’s suffering by stating that “the cock was upstanding,” a great deadpan delivery by Michael Culkin. Blushing barristers – you’ll only find them on the BBC.

The charge is dismissed and Miss Wagstaffe, dressed in the cleanest rags I’ve ever seen, is free to go. For one because there really wasn’t a case in the first place, as her client’s death was neither suicide nor murder, and for the other because Garrow convinced Judge Buller that this case, should it become public, could “corrupt the moral climate and encourage the depraved part of mankind to seeking similar indecent stimulatives”. One has to wonder what Mr. Garrow’s thoughts on “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!” would be.



While Mr. Garrow has to turn Miss Wagstaffe’s offer for non-monetary expression of gratitude down, Mr. Southouse is confronted by Mary Hamer, the wife of one Joseph Hamer who sits in Newgate, without any charges being made against him. Southouse tries to explain to Mrs. Hamer that he and Garrow have parted ways, and that he can’t do anything for her until charges against her husband have been made. A classical Catch-22.

Having escaped Miss Wagstaffe, Garrow is cornered by Sir Arthur Hill, who states that he has to satisfy himself that there’s no animosity between the two of them. Very noble, but basically, he’s just there to brag that his wife Sarah is carrying his child. In Garrow’s place, I’d been sorely tempted to ask “Pray tell, good Sir, would you herald this news if it wasn’t your child?”, but Mr. Garrow’s manners are better than mine. He puts on a brave face while Sir Arthur prances off, leaving a trail of smugness behind him.

However, Garrow wouldn’t be Garrow if he would consider insignificant details like husbands and children as obstacles on his way to happiness. His meeting with Lady Sarah reminded me at times of the final scene in “Some like it hot” (“But Osgood, I’m a man!” “Don’t worry, darling. Nobody’s perfect.”) – the word “no” doesn’t exist in Garrow’s emotional dictionary. He asks Sarah to leave her husband, and enthusiastically confirms that he’d be very willing to play father to Sir Arthur’s child. Very romantic, very noble, but quite clearly, Garrow has no idea of the consequences such a scandal would cause. Lady Sarah, probably aware that leaving her husband to stay with Garrow would have her looking after two children rather than one, tells Garrow that they have no future and leaves him behind, heartbroken.

At the local coffeehouse, Garrow bumps into Southouse, and seizes the opportunity to apologise. “Garrowpology” should be a real word, meaning a sortofnotreallythenagainmaybe apology. “It was partially my fault. Well, most of it. OK, entirely my fault. I regret it. Well, sort of. Actually, not really.” It takes a man with a heart of gold and the patience of a saint to work with Garrow – luckily for our dashing young hero, Southouse is such a man. The two are interrupted by angry Mrs. Hamer and in following, the meeting of the “London Corresponding Society” she attends is busted by the messenger of the Secretary of the State. Garrow and Southouse work together once again to save Mrs. Hamer from prison. However, they do so the Southouse-way, which might be less spectacular that Garrow’s, but still effective, a fact Garrow grumpily admits. I absolutely loved Southouse’s sarcastic way of putting Garrow in his place. Eh, I love Southouse, period.

Now things are really getting started, with Mr. Hamer being charged – only what for, Garrow and Southouse won’t learn before the actual trial.

For the first time, the so-far only hinted political conspiracies behind the scenes become visible, and Garrow connects the dots. This is not about Mr. Hamer’s supposed crime, it’s about people with power not wanting to share it. The Hamers of this world, with their justified demands for equal representation and rights are a danger to the status quo, and Garrow notes quite correctly that Hamer’s case is played out in the shadow of the guillotine. There’s this enormous fear of political and social changes, of a revolution. Men like Joseph Hamer are feared and therefore have to be shut up and locked up. If that means to infiltrate meetings with spies, buy witnesses or plant evidence, so be it.

Sir Arthur Hill, this becomes evident in this episode, is not a man without conscience. He doesn’t feel comfortable with the actions of his peers, but he fears to lose all he has and is, not realising that he might lose his wife if he doesn’t make the right decision.

I don’t want to give away the content and the outcome of the trial, because it would ruin the enjoyment of the excellent courtroom confrontation between Garrow and Sir John Scott (Peter Symonds), the pompous, overbearing Attorney General who manages to prattle on for hours and makes judges, witnesses, the accused, the jury and even Garrow fall asleep. Hamer is charged for high treason – a completely unexpected move, and the prospect of being hanged, drawn and quartered is not a pleasant one. Even less pleasant is the prospect that this case, should Hamer be found guilty, will effectively mean the end of personal freedom. Already a list with 800 names exists – 800 names of people who’d share Hamer’s fate. One name on the list is Garrow’s.

“The Crown versus Hamer” is courtroom drama at its best. Gripping, touching, funny, sad, scary – a rollercoaster of emotions, not least because there are so many parallels to the present political and social situation. Garrow feels the temptation of power and money; he receives an offer that would mean a stellar career, but at the cost of moral bankruptcy. As much as I wanted to be sure that he’d turn the offer down – I wasn’t. Again, excellent acting by Andrew Buchan; I was kept on the edge of my seat until the very last moment.

And while there’s no true resolution for the love between Garrow and Lady Sarah in the end, there’s hope. I think it’s the first time in TV history that a glass of water melted my TV set!

So, what to make of “Garrow’s Law?” THE GUARDIAN offers an in-depth analysis of “Garrow’s Law”, it’s entertainment value and the quality of acting as well as- heh. Joke. No, this is about something important – the presence of a gavel in the courtroom.  Spotting small historical inaccuracies is part of the fun in costume drama, but I’d be on the same page with the author if we’d talk about fundamental mistakes which completely distort our perception of history.

From that point of view, the absence of dirt would seem to be the greater offense than the presence of a gavel. But though I’m all for authenticity, I’d found it very distracting if Silvester and Garrow had scratched their heads every other minute due to the lice in their wigs. The clerk fumigating the court before every trial made it clear that, by Jove, fumigation was needed! “Garrow’s Law” is “Tales from the Old Bailey”, not “100% accurate presentation of legal history in the 18th century”. It might come as a surprise, but we, the audience, are smart enough to tell the difference.

What some journalists don’t seem to understand is the one core achievement of “Garrow’s Law”: it’s not the quality entertainment, the ratings or the pleasant sight of Andrew Buchan in a velvet coat (though I freely admit that I quite enjoyed the view) – this show took Sir William Garrow from the backshelf of history, dusted him off and put his great achievements in the limelight. In our modern unculture of fear and mistrust, we need to be reminded that the rights we enjoy weren’t there since the beginning of times, and that we should never take them for granted.

And now some links which might be of interest to you:

WATERSIDE PRESS
will release a biography of Sir William Garrow by the end of November:

And the good news of the day:

YOU CAN PRE-ORDER THE DVD OF “GARROW’S LAW” ON AMAZON!
It will be released on 4 January, 2010, and I’ve already placed an order.

24 November, 2009 at 2:41 am 6 comments

I got an award! And I’d like to recommended some blogs and journals

Earlier this year, I received the following award from the most generous Wolfgang Amadé Mozart:

I just noticed that my note of thanks never made it on said wonderful blog. Like many others, it’s hosted on blogspot. And blogspot seems to have a Joyful-Molly-allergy. I’m the peanut-butter of the blogosphere.

But this won’t keep me from recommending some wonderful blogs for your reading pleasure. Whenever I find the time, I follow the writings and findings of these amazing, funny, interesting and fascinating people, who, in my humble opinion, are some of the best you can find on ye olde inthartubes, and whose contributions to the alive-keeping of history are invaluable.

Listed in alphabetical order. Sort of.

THE DUTCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE’S GOSSIP GUIDE TO THE 18TH CENTURY
Scandalous tid-bits from England’s finest socialite of the Georgian age.

GARROW’S LAW
Maintaned by Mark Pallis, Legal and Historical Consultant on the BBC show.

GILLRAY’S PRINTSHOP OF HISTORICAL ABSURDITIES
Being one amateur historian’s exploration of the 18th and 19th centuries.

THE OFFICIAL WEBLOG OF WOLFGANG AMADÉ MOZART

ONE MORE STITCH
Reproduction and historic knitting inspired by original garments, objects and patterns from the past.

There are more, of course, and I’ll add them in my next update of MOLLY JOYFUL’S LIST OF USEFUL RESOURCES, but for now, please enjoy the ones I listed, and don’t forget to tell them how much you enjoy their work.

22 November, 2009 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

Emma Collingwood: “Lieutenant Samuel Blackwood (deceased)” on sale!

From the blog of Emma Collingwood:

Unfortunately, “The Radiant Boy” won’t be available in time for Christmas (the book will go on sale in January 2010). A small consolation: the price for “Lieutenant Samuel Blackwood (deceased)” has been lowered by £ 1.00!

Christmas Special:

Buy “Lieutenant Samuel Blackwood (deceased)” for
£ 7.50 (Europe) or £ 8.50 (elsewhere)!

First class postage is included in these prices!

ABOUT THE BOOK

REVIEWS

PLEASE ORDER THE PRINT EDITION HERE!

PLEASE ORDER THE E-BOOK HERE!

HMS Privet has the reputation of being a cursed ship: every first lieutenant serving aboard her dies gruesomely. Lieutenant Daniel Leigh is determined to solve the mystery and volunteers for the place himself, putting his life in desperate danger. Little does he suspect that he will fall in love with the captain, John Meadows, and end up fighting not only for his own life, but for the soul of his lover, too.

Lieutenant Samuel Blackwood (deceased) – a Georgian ghost story featuring a cursed ship, a vengeful ghost, a haunted captain and a very daring lieutenant.

Illustrations: Amandine de Villeneuve
Editor: Alex Beecroft

Contains male/male romance.


21 November, 2009 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

Review: “Garrow’s Law”, BBC1: Episode 3 – The Killing of the Mighty Squash

The excellent third episode of “Garrow’s Law” confirmed what we already assumed: Mr. Garrow might be the upcoming star on the stage of the Old Bailey, but in all other aspects of his life, he is – with all due respect – not the brightest candle on the candlestick.

Garrow handles challenges – be they of a professional (Silvester) or romantical (Lady Sarah) nature – like a  petulant child. But temper tantrums and hurt vanities will neither pave the way to a lasting career nor win a woman’s heart, so maybe Lady Sarah should rather have whacked her pigheaded firebrand on the head with her fan than kissed him. Then again, who could blame her.

Garrow (Andrew Buchan) defends the detestable Edgar Cole (James Bradshaw) on a charge of raping a servant girl (Josie Farmiloe), much to the disappointment of Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal). She confronts Garrow, and Silvester (Aidan McArdle) senses the intimacy between them. His insinuation offends Garrow and he challenges Silvester to a duel. He also comes up against his old nemesis Edward Forrester (Steven Waddington) over the case of a stolen box of lace. Garrow seeks help from Southouse (Alun Armstrong), but will his close friendship with Lady Sarah cost him his association with his dear mentor?

“Garrow’s Law” made it into the Top 50 of the UK iTunes downloads last week, and it’s clear to see why: it’s excellently written, acted, directed and researched drama with just the right pinch of romance and humour to make it appealing to a wide audience. It’s set in the 18th century, yes – but there are neither dust nor cobwebs – and you may take that literally. This is one of the cleanest versions of 18th century London I’ve ever seen. Even the off-all thrown at the culprit in the stocks seems to come straight from the farmers’ market.

William Garrow has reached a crossroad in his life – will his future actions be guided by principles or purposes? The audience better be prepared for its loyalties to be challenged: it’s not so much Garrow’s decision to defend rapist Edgar Cole per se which makes us frown, it’s the perfidious way in which he leads the victim on. He’s willingly sacrificing the poor girl for his own success; friendly, understanding, compassionate, he talks to the girl as you would to a frightened child – but he only has one target: freedom for his client, whom he knows to be guilty. Great acting by Andrew Buchan here, but Lady Sarah isn’t amused; actually, she’s outraged and not holding back in telling a flabbergasted Garrow what she thinks of him. By the end of the trial, one’s disgusted with the hero and sides with Silvester; this sure speaks for the quality of the writing. Nothing is ever black and white here.

It’s a pity there’s only one episode left, for now the characters are established and we learn more about them, their motivations and interactions. Mr. Southouse got himself new teeth – five guinees each, imagine! – but what loving husband wouldn’t happily sacrifice such an amount to keep his wife happy? Southouse is a wonderful character, and his portrayal by Alun Armstrong superb. Southouse and Garrow have very much a father/son relationship, and there’s great chemistry between them. It sure looked like Southouse secretly enjoyed teaching Garrow, who foolishly challenged Silvester to a duel, how to use a duelling pistol, even though he didn’t agree with the duel itself. Garrow, being his usual humble self, completely overestimates his abilities as a marksman while underestimating Silvester’s determination to teach him a lesson. The outcome is both humiliating and painful for Garrow.

Lady Sarah, not impressed with Garrow’s juvenile attempts at “defending” her honour, has to deal with a jealous husband, and she handles the situation very well, given the circumstances. Unlike the way women are usually portrayed in dramas set in that period, she’s very capable, confident and straightforward. A refreshing perspective, and if you look at the achievements of some women in the 18th century, it’s not an unrealistic one. Just because history was written by men doesn’t mean women had no part in making it!

It’s obvious Lady Sarah’s drawn to Garrow, but neither her conscience nor her sense of loyalty for her husband allow her to act upon her feelings beyond a kiss – for now. Her actions are far more rational and mature than Garrow’s, and she’s the one in charge. How things would go if Sir Arthur should act in a manner that betrayed his wife’s sense of loyalty and justice remains to be seen, though. Luckily, Sir Arthur isn’t portrayed as a cruel, unbearable ogre of a husband; a trope unfortunately found in many period dramas. He’s quite forward in asking her if he was a cuckold, without yelling and drama.

While things are getting pear-shaped in the Hill-household, Garrow is taking great pleasure in suffering. Southouse calls his injury a mere nick in the arm, but Garrow’s quick to point out that it’s a “most painful one”. May the Gods prevent this man from ever catching a cold; he’d be unsufferable. Lady Sarah visits him to see how he’s doing, and things go as they tend to go in such situations.

As a consequence, it dawns to Southouse what, or rather, who the actual reason for the duel was. He’s both disappointed and angry with his young protégé for deceving him; this does not bode well for the future. However, despite his personal problems (not to mention his “most painful” injury!), Garrow is butting heads in court with Forrester, the corrupt thieftaker we’ve already encountered before. Unfortunately, Garrow’s focus is more on his dislike for Silvester and his feelings for Lady Sarah, so things don’t go well for the unfortunate couple of thieves that were paid by Forrester to rob a lace shop, only to find themselves not only arrested, but also blamed for the murder of the shopkeeper’s grandson.

Though Garrow manages to at least save the lives of his clients and finally expose Forrester’s evil deeds, he falls out with well-meaning Southouse due to his arrogance and hot temper, deeply disappointing and hurting his fatherly friend. By the end of the episode, William Garrow’s about as popular as the swine flu.

Watch the latest episode of “Garrow’s Law” on the BBC iPlayer

Buy episodes of “Garrow’s Law” on iTunes

Read Mark Pallis’ entry about the real cases which inspired this episode

16 November, 2009 at 10:36 pm 4 comments

Garrow’s Law: FAQ – servants and beards and wigs, oh my!

“Garrow’s Law” has obviously garnered a loyal fellowship within a very short time. That’s great, and they’re very curious and observant people! So I got more mails in a week than I usually get in two months. Here are some answers to the questions (and criticisms) I found in my mailbox; I hope the answers will be helpful.

“Who played the servant girl in episode 1, and where have I seen her before?”

gl03

Tessa Nicholson and Andrew Buchan in "Garrow's Law".

The actress who played Elizabeth Jarvis, the servant girl accused of having murdered her bairn is Tessa Nicholson. The link goes to her IMDB profile; maybe you’ve seen her in one of the productions listed there?

“Who was THE MONSTER?”

gl16

Joel Gillman as Renwick Williams in "Garrow's Law".

Renwick Williams, the not-monster, was played by Joel Gillman. For more information about the actual case used for this episode, please read this very interesting article by Mark Pallis.

“There was this one guy with a beard who heckled Silvester. They had no beards in the 18th century?!”

gl17

To shave or not to shave...

Now that is a very good question! By no means am I an expert on hairstyles, but I’d say that it would have been highly unlikely to see a young man of some status (judging by his clothes, his presence in the court room and his company) to wear a beard. The 18th century was a very bad time for beards, so yes, I agree:  that scene wasn’t realistic or historical correct, imo. I hate beards, though, so I’m biased. Beard-experts are welcome to come forward with further information.

“Why are some men wearing wigs and others aren’t?”

gl18

Chicks dig wigs - Andrew Buchan as William Garrow in "Garrow's Law".

“Garrow’s Law” is set in the late 18th century; 1780s, I’d say. By that time, younger men would rather powder their own hair than wear a wig (unless it was, like in Garrow’s case, part of the dress code for his profession). While the portrayal of wig-wearing (or lack thereof) looks correct to me, I doubt that somebody like publisher Mr. Angerstein would have appeared in court without a wig.  An older gentleman would stick with his wig, as it had been a symbol of rank and status for centuries. Then again, Mr. Angerstein wasn’t really a gentleman, now was he…!

“Hangedhangedhanged! WTF scriptwriter! Men are HANGED, not HUNG!”

As far as grammar is concerned, you are correct. However, if we take anatomy into consideration… next question, please!

Edited to add: looks like I was only half-right with my reply (well, as far as the grammar part is concerned). Mark Pallis gives a more thorough answer to the “hanged or hung” debate here.

For those interested, here are two links to interviews with actor Andrew Buchan, who plays William Garrow in “Garrow’s Law”.

Daily Record: The Fixer star Andrew Buchan on his new TV role as a Scots pioneer

Digital Spy

He definitely doesn’t share our enthusiasm for pigtails and coats. Heh!

13 November, 2009 at 3:01 pm 3 comments

Event tip: BBC Children in Need comes to Hartlepool Maritime Experience

Jugglers, jesters and clowns are just some of the attractions at this year’s BBC Children in Need event in the North East of England, which will take place on Friday 20 November from 6.00 to 10.00pm at Hartlepool Maritime Experience, home of HMS Trincomalee.

The event will be broadcast live on BBC One North East during several special segments throughout the evening and will be hosted by BBC Tees‘ mid-morning presenter, Diane Youdale, and BBC Look North‘s Jeff Brown and Trai Anfield.

Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience

will be open for free entry during the broadcast and it is hoped visitors will join in the fun with fancy dress, and take part in the special fundraising events happening around HMS Trincomalee.

trincomalee

CLICK HERE FOR FULL DETAILS

12 November, 2009 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

Review: “Garrow’s Law”, BBC1: Episode 2 – Could the Real Monster please stand up?

A new broom sweeps clean, so I didn’t dare to hope for episode two of  “Garrow’s Law” to be quite on par with it’s stellar premiere. And I was right – it was actually better!

William Garrow (Andrew Buchan), now a celebrated Old Bailey barrister, is encouraged by John Southouse (Alun Armstrong) to defend Renwick Williams, accused of being the infamous Monster who has carried out a series of stabbings on young ladies across London. As a result, Garrow’s popularity diminishes with the public and the press. Even he describes Williams as a ‘lecherous libertine’ and his defence is not easy. Garrow’s growing friendship with Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal) does not go unnoticed by her husband, Sir Arthur (Rupert Graves).

Customs, morals, standards and laws may change – but human nature doesn’t. The case of the “monster” in episode two of “Garrow’s Law” proves that once again. Whenever a heinous crime is committed, media and public are quick to put a dehumanising label on the perpetrator: “monster” or “beast” are very popular. Crimes, however, are committed by human beings – people just like you and I. An uncomfortable thought, belonging to the same subspecies with murderers, isn’t it? Who knows what we might be capable of, depending on the circumstances? Also Mr. Garrow finds affinity of nature in the most unexpected and unpleasant places, and it’s a good thing that Lady Sarah, who is the voice of his conscience, pushes him in the right direction. She may do so with gloved hands, but she’s very firm at pointing out that Garrow’s willingness to defend the accused is his duty and will make the difference between a trial and a lynching. Whether her assumption is correct remains to be seen…

Mr. Garrow is crossing the blade with John Julius Angerstein (Nicholas Day), publisher of the “Gazette”, the 18th-century equivalent of the Daily Mail and mouthpiece of the “decent, hard-working, law-abiding citizens of London”, voicing the public’s rage and self-righteous indignation. All is fair in politics and the sale of newspapers, so the truth is of no great importance in court, and Sir Arthur has his own reasons to wish for Mr. Garrow’s downfall. The public on the gallery, witnessing the trial, harrasses the accused’s mother, trims its sail to the wind, cheers for a witness one moment and boos her the next, and if these fine gentlefolks would live today, you’d find their outbursts on the comment pages of every newspaper and in the BBC’s own “Have Your Say” section.

There’s not one dull moment in this episode; new facts, obscure old laws and withheld information, in combination with the accused’s difficult and self-destructive character don’t help Garrow with his job. There are many highlights, but his interrogation of one of the “monster’s” victims is one of mynew  favourite scenes on British television. I’m guilty of loud cheering in front of the telly, your Honour.

At the end of the day, guilt or innocence of the accused libertine aren’t of importance to court and public; if he’s not guilty of that crime, then he’s certainly guilty of some other or might commit one in future. So why not get him off the streets when given the opportunity? Saving his neck isn’t an easy task for Mr. Garrow, and he might be heading for a Pyrrhic victory.

Great acting all around; I have to mention here Joel Gillman as Renwick Williams and Carry Kelly as his mother Agnes. Andrew Buchan and Alun Armstrong give their characters’ interactions a wonderful dynamic, and Aidan McArdle (Silvester) and  Michael Culkin (Judge Buller) are perfectly perfidious villains. “Garrow’s Law” is, without a doubt, one of the best period dramas the BBC has produced in ages.

And yes, Mr. Garrow gets more dashing by the episode. Where are my sal volatile and my fan…

You can catch up with the episodes of “Garrow’s Law” on the BBC’s iPlayer. You’ll also find character profiles and additional information there. Don’t forget to check the historical backhistory of the case of “the monster” by Mark Pallis, Legal & Historical Consultant of “Garrow’s Law”.

10 November, 2009 at 12:07 am 8 comments

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