Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vignettes, part one

So far, in contemplating the prospect of Mary: the Movie, we have looked at its blockbuster potential and its natural audience, the locations and the characters. We've even got the trailer sorted, more or less.What then of the actual scenes? The following are significant episodes in the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, or examples of what formed her. The list is not comprehensive, but it is visual, i.e. film-friendly. Imagination, awaken!
On the landing of an C18 house
    Scene 1. As a child, Mary sometimes slept across the door of her mother's bedroom, so that her father could not get in and abuse his wife, or not, at any rate, without waking his vigilant daughter.
          George v L Meyer private library
          German bed
          Scene 2. Mary found familial peace & intellectual stimulation in the library of the father of her first real friend, Jane Arden. Mary is ardent towards her. Sharing beds is the norm.

          Ship in trouble, stormy seas.
          Scene 3 .Mary travels across the Bay of Biscay on a 13 day stormy passage. All the other passengers are vilely seasick. She is not.

          Childbirth, 1801, Greece.
          Scene 4. She arrives in Lisbon to find Franes already in labour. The baby is born four hours later, into her arms. Fanny dies. (Dramatic foreshadowing.) 

          Scene 5. Mary wanders around earthquake-ruined Lisbon, wondering what to do with her life now. Outer scenery reflects inner turmoil. 

          Scene 6. On the journey back, they come across a ship foundering. Mary makes the British captain, who would have left the French sailors to their fate, rescue them, threatening to expose him otherwise. (Force of character.)

          Scene 7. Back in London, she worships at Newington Green Unitarian Church and listens to Rev Dr Richard Price. (The church is still there.)

          Scene 8. At a dinner party given by Price, all the great men have their say, and the young schoolmistress listens & learns. (His house is still there, facing the green.)

          The painter's studio, by Gustave Courbet.
          Scene 9. She visits the painter Fuseli in his studio (more excuse for semi-clad women) and proposes living together with him and his wife. He is surprised; the wife is appalled.

          Scene 10. Mary decides to go to Paris for a bit; she sees Lous XVI being carried to the guillotine.

          More visual vignettes next week...

          Images:  Landing between staircases, by Historic American Buildings Survey [Public domain].  Private libary, George v L Meyer private library in Hamilton Massachusetts, anonymous photographer. German bed, by R. Engelhardt [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (]. The storm, François Aimé Louis Dumoulin [Public domain]. Sketch of childbirth, by Sinnini de Manoncourt [Public domain]. Lisbon with earthquake and tsunami, by Galilea at de.wikipedia [Public domain].  The furies of the guillotine, drawing by H. Baron, engraving by L. Massard [Public domain]. 
          All images via Wikimedia Commons.

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