Monday, September 19, 2011

To Be A Heroine - Dorothy Stanbury

Caroline Martin as Dolly
The other day I was re-watching Andrew Davies' 2004 adaptation of Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right (you can read my film review of this miniseries here). I was struck anew by a lovely subplot that intertwines with the main story and a supporting character who is a heroine in her own right. Allow me to tell her story...

Dorothy "Dolly" Stanbury is the youngest child in a family of three grown-up children. Since the death of her father, the vicar, she has lived with her mother and older sister Priscilla in "a little morsel of a cottage on the outskirts of the village" of Nuncombe Putney. Though they are fairly poor they are quite respectable; they try to spend every bit of their meager "70 pounds per annum" income wisely.

Stanbury Family: Mrs. Stanbury, Priscilla, Hugh and Dorothy
Dolly's older brother Hugh was well educated by their elderly rich aunt Miss Jemima Stanbury, but when Hugh starts writing for a small radical political paper his stodgy Tory aunt disinherits him. Their aunt has a kind heart and she still wants to help her poor relations so asks 26-year-old Dolly to be her live-in companion.
Independent minded Priscilla is initially against this scheme but the more tenderhearted Dolly decides to go.

Aunt Stanbury lives in a large house in the town of Wells (a fair distance from Nuncombe Putney) where she is a lady of importance. She is a bit of a patroness to the clergyman of the district Reverend Thomas Gibson and she soon singles him out as a suitor for Dolly who she plans to leave a portion of money to. Mr. Gibson is attracted to Dolly but more so to the idea of marrying this possible heiress with the rich aunt. Dolly instinctively dislikes him and when he tries to propose to her at a dinner party she puts him off. 

Mr. Gibson's Proposal is Interrupted
When he comes the next day to ask Aunt Stanbury for her niece's hand in marriage Dolly refuses him. At first Aunt Stanbury is mad at her for refusing but when Mr. Gibson's true interest of greed comes to her attention she stands beside Dolly's decision and turns the clergyman away. Aunt Stanbury even defends her niece's honor when a rumor is put about by the local French sister (admirer's of Mr. Gibson) that Dolly threw herself at the clergyman.

Matthew Goode as Brook Burgess
Aunt Stanbury's heir is the good looking and spirited Brook Burgess who has visited before Mr. Gibson proposed. Dolly sees in him qualities that she greatly admires and she can't help comparing Mr. Gibson to him. When her aunt falls ill Brook is called for again and the two young people spend quite a bit of time together. One evening Brook tells Dolly in his straight-forward way that he is in love with her and asks her to marry him. Dolly hesitates giving an answer right away because she's afraid her aunt might not approve of the match.

Anna Masses as Aunt Jemima Stanbury
Unfortunately Dolly is correct, her aunt disapproves of the match because she holds to the old-fashioned idea that she inherited her fortune wrongly from Brook's ancestor and when she dies she wants all of the money to be returned to the Burgess family without a hint that the Stanburys have profited from the fortune. Brook has no such scruples and at first Dolly agrees to a secret engagement with him which makes her aunt very angry and she sends Dolly home to her mother. Aunt Stanbury misses Dolly greatly and makes it known that she wants her to come back. Dolly goes back to her aunt and tearfully tells her she will give up the idea of marrying Brook even though she loves him deeply. After a sleepless night on both of their parts Aunt Stanbury goes to Dolly early in the morning and tells her she's seen the folly of her ways and she wants Dolly, who is dearer to her than any daughter, to be happy with Brook.

I love the sweetness of Dolly Stanbury. She's so mild mannered and tries to do what is right, but she also knows her own mind and stands up for what she believes. The love that she has for her aunt is so compelling, I cried so much when she agreed to give up Brook Burgess in order to do what her aunt thought was right. Then the complete joy when her aunt comes to her and relents filled my eyes with tears again! I love her story so much and wish it was a stand-alone book!


This is my first post in what I hope to be a series (perhaps 3-5 posts) of To Be A Heroine posts. This series is in response to Jen Corkill's challenge to post about your favorite heroines. Check out her latest posts about Jo March and Anne Elliot at her blog Victorian's Dream.



Emily Boyd said...

Sounds like a great movie! I really want to see it now. :)

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

'He Knew He Was Right' is pretty good, not as good as Jane Austen movies. I updated my post to include the link to my movie review. There's several subplots going at once in 'He Knew He Was Right' but Dorothy Stanbury's story is my favorite. :)

Jessica said...

I love that sub plot in the movie, too. :-) Very sweet. I didn't know Dorothy was 26, so there's a new fact for me. ha
PS. I am Melody's sister. ;-)

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Thanks for your lovely comment! I didn't know Dorothy's age either until I was looking up info for this post. The book describes her appearance differently as well.
I've seen you comment before but I didn't know you were Melody's sister. I've really enjoyed getting to know her through her blog! :)
I hope you visit often!

Anonymous said...

How lovely to see you do a post about this under-appreciated heroine! I really liked her story best of all in the adaptation!

Elizabeth said...

I am looking forward to more posts! You have now made me add another period drama to my quickly increasing list. :)

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