Small world. Earlier this week I was thrilled to get this "Moods of The New Forest" postcard from Bournemouth on the southern coast of England. I received the card through the worldwide Postcard Crossings Project, which I've been involved in for about a month. Scroll past the previous post on peach roadtripping to read the "Postcards Crossing the World" post if you're interested in how the project works.
Now I'm happy to get many beautiful, humorous or interesting cards from all over the world, but this one is extra special. The postcard links the present to the past as I know it through my all time favorite novel. The English writer Elizabeth Gaskell sets the first part of her 1850s novel North and South in the small village of Helstone in The New Forest. Her heroine is Margaret Hale, the daughter of a New Forest clergyman, who grew up in Helstone in the New Forest. She loved the people in her father's parish and the woods around Helstone village.
Kelly, who sent me the postcard, wrote this present day description of The New Forest: "this pic is of the lovely views from the forest. . .in the forest live animals such as horses, cows, foxes and deer".
In North and South, Gaskell wrote: "It was the latter part of July when Margaret returned home. (from living with her Aunt Shaw in London) The forest trees were all one dark, full, dusky green; the fern below them caught all the slanting sunbeams; the weather was sultry and broodingly still. Margaret used to tramp along by her father's side. . .crushing down the fern. . .out on the broad commons into the warm scented light, seeing multitudes of wild, free, living creatures, revelling in the sunshine, and the herbs and flowers it called forth. This life--at least all these walks--realized all Margaret's anticipations. She took pride in her forest. Its people were her people." Chapter II
For those not familiar with North and South (I wrote an entirely too long post about the work a couple of weeks ago--"John Thornton Makes Me Cry"-- so won't re-hash the full plot) Margaret and her mother are forced to follow her clergyman father to the grey and gritty industrial town of Milton in the north when he decides to break with the doctrines of the Church of England. Leaving home in Helstone, a modest cottage covered with yellow china roses, and the surrounding sun-dappled forest was a shock for Margaret and her mother. Milton was dirty, smoky and chaotic. The people were intent on trade, not the gentle agrarian ways of the south. And to complicate matters even more Margaret was soon involved, against her will at first, with the stern cotton manufacturer, John Thornton.
From the beginning, Thornton and Margaret's relationship was rocky,but compelling, on both sides. Both judged the other based on lifelong prejudices from their ways of life--a battle of north against south. We are not sure that they will ever resolve their differences. Margaret returns to her Aunt Shaw's in London after almost two years in Milton; Thornton loses his cotton mill after his workers strike. Margaret lives with deep regret for refusing Thornton's offer of marriage. Thornton travels to Havre to try to sort out his business affairs.
Although Thornton is dealing with the loss of his cotton mill, he still longs for Margaret, trying to understand this woman of The New Forest. He makes a detour to Helstone on his way back from Havre to Milton. He walks the forest and spots the yellow roses in the hedgerows that remind him of Margaret. He makes one more detour in London to explore some business options. He and Margaret meet there and finally understand each other and are reconciled.
In this reconciliation scene, Thornton says " 'Do you know these roses?' drawing out of his pocket-book, in which were treasured up some dead flowers. . .Margaret looked at them, wondering for a minute 'They are from Helstone, are they not?. . .Oh! Have you been there? When were you there? Thornton answers: 'I wanted to see the place where Margaret grew to what she is, even at the worst time of all, when I had no hope of calling her mine. I went there on my return from Havre.' " Chapter LII
So, just when I imagined that there was nothing else for me to say about North and South, this wonderful postcard of The New Forest arrives in the mail. Thanks, Kelly, for this connection you helped me make with a favorite book. Now where would I like the next postcard to come from? I think the Middle East--maybe someone in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan?
(Photo credits: from the BBC's North and South, www.richardarmitageonline.com)
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.