“She was loyal and liberal; her small eager hand was ever against the oppressions of academic and commercial opinion, and though her income was considerable, her bank balance was often a minus quantity.”

I have a confession – I am one of those people who keep heroines. Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about this apart from the fact (my fellow fangirls might sympathise with this) that I tend to idealise them terribly. This can be quite damaging for the importance of these fictional characters or actual historical figures as it is not their virtuousness, beauty or level of “perfection” that make them heroine-material, but rather their complex personalities, ability to make mistakes, change their mind, to have an agenda that is not encompassed within the narrative of a hero – in short, the fact that they exist as “real people” and not simply allegories of purity, docility, motherhood and so on. (I also have this annoying tendency to wholeheartedly support my heroines, although they might be cruel or unjust – please don’t get me started on my neverending love of Cersei Lannister.) Sometimes however, I am guilty of glossing over particular strengths and focus rather on the sass or appearance of my heroines. Today I am guilty of the latter, as I obsess over June Forsyte and her wonderful sense of fashion. (All screencaps by me.)

June's smoking capJune's smoking capJune's smoking cap June's smoking cap
June's smoking cap
June's smoking cap

I do appreciate her as a character in her own right, particularly that she is allowed to develop properly, as is the case when the free spiritedness she displays as a young girl eventually turns political as she grows older. Her becoming a suffragette seems realistic and true to her personality and beliefs. (Thankfully, unlike in certain other costume dramas, her political sympathies are not discarded as the foolishness of youth, pushed aside in favour of the development of other characters or put to an end by marriage, childbirth and death – I’m looking at you, Julian Fellowes.) To me one of the attractions of June, portrayed Gillian Kearney in the ITV adaptation of The Forsyte Saga, will however always be her wardrobe, as it is (dare I say it) absolutely perfect. I particularly covet her matching embroidered skirt and smoking cap. Alas a new smoking cap from a Jermyn Street shop would be ridiculously expensive, so I’m stalking ebay for something antique and even pondering trying to make my own.

To make up for the lack of substance in this post, here’s a quote from one of the novels, concerning June’s character:

Jolyon found June waiting on the platform at Paddington. She had received his telegram while at breakfast. Her abode—a studio and two bedrooms in a St. John’s Wood garden—had been selected by her for the complete independence which it guaranteed. Unwatched by Mrs. Grundy, unhindered by permanent domestics, she could receive lame ducks at any hour of day or night, and not seldom had a duck without studio of its own made use of June’s. She enjoyed her freedom, and possessed herself with a sort of virginal passion; the warmth which she would have lavished on Bosinney, and of which—given her Forsyte tenacity—he must surely have tired, she now expended in championship of the underdogs and budding ‘geniuses’ of the artistic world. She lived, in fact, to turn ducks into the swans she believed they were. The very fervour of her protection warped her judgements. But she was loyal and liberal; her small eager hand was ever against the oppressions of academic and commercial opinion, and though her income was considerable, her bank balance was often a minus quantity. (John Galsworthy, In Chancery: Part II, Chapter III)

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3 thoughts on ““She was loyal and liberal; her small eager hand was ever against the oppressions of academic and commercial opinion, and though her income was considerable, her bank balance was often a minus quantity.”

  1. Beautiful imagery and article. I too get quite involved in my Victorian characters, no matter their faults; perhaps, it is simply that each one has something of me in them and despite their failings, idiosyncrasies and downright foolhardiness, I wholeheartedly empaphise with them. Thanks for sharing. Regards, Paul

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