Melvyn's newsletter - Silas Marner - 28/1/2010

Book cover of edition of Silas Marner


Well! What a how do you do when the programme came to an end. Valentine Cunningham asserted: "She threw herself (as my mother might say) at men who could help her! Whenever she moved into a house, the women wanted to throw her out." I think he used the word 'predatory'.

This was emphatically protested against by Dinah and Rosemary. With expressions like "oh no!" "And anyway," they said, "Herbert Spencer was not an affair." "That was only because he didn't find her at all attractive," was the riposte. "She knew where to go to get an education," said Dinah, "she knew where to go for help in her education." "She was a woman making her way in a man's world," said Rosemary, "we didn't make this clear." And (can't remember who said this) "she was not going to settle for a life of celibacy, difficult as it was for her to live with a man who could not get a divorce."

Dinah feared that we had been too gloomy and should have pointed out the humour in the book. We also failed to talk about the mythical element and superstition in the village of Raveloe (which I thought was an unfortunate omission - my fault) because there was a sub-stratum of very ancient lore there which underpinned all the arguments that the villagers had. There were moments in the novel which did clutch your heart. And all of us would have liked to have spoken more at length about her capacity to make you feel so strongly about her characters. Again, why did Eppie at the end choose to stay with Silas instead of following Oliver Twist and whizzing up the social scale to, in the understood way of the time, get wealth and therefore happiness and therefore fulfil a destiny? Perhaps George Eliot was thinking more of Pip.

There was so much unsaid. Some of it was blunt. "If she'd been beautiful," said Dinah, "we would not have had Middlemarch." (Discuss.)

The idea of fostering was not discussed and George Eliot had direct experience of that with George Henry Lewes' children.

Out of all this came a notion for a series on six great Victorian novels (Dinah's idea): Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, etc, etc. Two executives were in the studio at this suggestion and they were both delighted with the idea. This is by way of an endorsement and a hope that we can put it into a shape which will eventually hit the air.

I would have loved a walk today. Lovely and cold but dry. Just the job. But after the awards a couple of days ago, I had to heave back to the office as fast as possible to start looking through the rough cut and deciding what rough bits we might cut and what we might preserve for Sunday's transmission.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

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