Nineteenth century Cranford in NW England is my newest favorite vacation spot. Shortly before that the charming mythical seaside town of Portwenn (Port Isaac) in Cornwall was my favorite although every character in that series seems to have been cast from the DSM-IV. The title character, Doc Martin, appalling yet strangely lovable, is a brilliant surgeon with fiction’s most abrupt and offensive bedside manner. Sociopath? Asperger’s?

Never mind. If it’s PBS, I like it. British films are done right. One, sets: To produce the town of Cranford, with its buggies and bonneted biddies, all the director had to do was have all the inhabitants of a real town (Lacock, near Chippenham) move their cars off the main street and then hide in their homes.

Two, plots. Three, dialogue. Cranford, based on three books by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), has a “very fine weave” and has produced such “sprightly turns of phrase” (to quote itself) as:

“She wrote in such distress. There were exclamation marks.”

“Has something occurred?” “I think it likely. Miss Pole is gesticulating.”

“A wagon of bricks became lodged with a pig cart.” “Was anyone hurt?” “No, but there was talk of summoning the constable.”

I’m going to keep my eye out for opportunities to sprinkle into conversations observations like:

“You wear a very truculent expression,” and “You are out to trounce me.”

“You’re betraying your emotions,” and “I do not wish to solicit sympathy,” and “I’m afraid my sister has suffered a nervous eclipse.”

“He was faintly disparaging about my mode of dress,” and “Stripes are very diminishing for the robust figure.”

“It demonstrated want of rectitude,” and “That man has put me in a most invidious position.”

“We will repair to our rooms and consume our fruit in solitude.”

“His taste in books is sadly popular [referring to Dickens],” and “Vulgar sentiment is so contagious.”

With these tucked into my reticule, I’ll surely have “all kinds of bons mot and admonishments laid by for any occasion.”


About Jessica Renshaw
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One Response to Cranford

  1. Elizabeth Gaskell was the first biographer of one of the Bronte sisters, I think.

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