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Mr. Ambrose Hawking

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Though I’ve written very little in his voice, I’ve thought a great deal about the patriarch of the respectable, successful middle-class Hawking family, and the father of Justin and Nathaniel. While his younger brother Colonel Reginald Hawking served in the military, Ambrose built the family business from the ground up, turning a series of small investments into a thriving venture capital firm with interests all across the empire. He was close to and very proud of his brave younger brother, with Reginald’s choice to marry the fiery, inscrutable Victoria Stanton being the only difference to ever come between them. This conflict is referenced in Like a Loss, a ten-minute play featuring the Colonel and his valet.

Ambrose is a bastion of traditional Victorian masculinity, accustomed to authority and privilege and very skeptical of the notion of women having agency. The world and its accompanying systems have done well for him, and so he is loath to see them change. His younger son Nathaniel, however, is beginning to question and even reject the assumptions to which his father raised him. It will come as quite a shock when he is confronted by Nathaniel’s new perspective on things, especially when it comes to affect the way Nathaniel decides to raise his own son.

I don’t know if or when Ambrose will ever actually appear in the plays. Even in the upcoming third one, in which I plan for other members of Nathaniel’s family to appear and drive the conflict, I don’t know if there will be room for him. Still, I think the influence of a traditionally Victorian patriarchal father is important for Nathaniel’s sorting out of how he’s going to engage with feminism. If nothing else, I’m sure he will be mentioned, as he is in Like a Loss, or perhaps show up in another in-universe short piece.

Here is a small chunk I felt compelled to write, just as a way of exploring the slightly more human side of him. One thing is clear, he cared very deeply about his brother the Colonel, and what pained Reginald was also pain to him. I also think it serves to make his strong antipathy towards Victoria a lot more understandable. So, in service of that, here is a conversation I could picture them having about the Colonel.

~~~

NATHANIEL: Did you think he ever knew just how… strongly she felt?

AMBROSE: Are you joking? Of course he did. He wasn’t a fool.

NATHANIEL: How do you know?

AMBROSE: Everyone knew. You could read it in her every glance, she never tried to hide it. And it cut him.

NATHANIEL: Did he tell you?

AMBROSE: He didn’t have to. I was his brother, I could see it in his eyes.

NATHANIEL: You never told me.

AMBROSE: By Jove, Nathaniel, do you fancy I hate her just because she’s unpleasant at dinner parties? The woman my brother loved despised him above all else. And he had to live with that. You may have found a way to forgive her, boy, but I never shall.

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“Prowl After the Help” — scribbling on a future inclusion of Justin

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Categories: character, looking ahead, scenes, Tags: , , , ,

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This scene, set sometime in the future of the Mrs. Hawking continuity, is between Nathaniel and his elder brother Justin, who’s a world traveler and a bit of a rake. I wanted to write a conversation between the two of them, and I settled on a theoretical moment where Justin is in London and has been starting to hit on Mary, which Nathaniel, knowing his brother, doesn’t approve of.

I wanted to show the brothers’ relationship as well as possible raise large plot-relevant issues, which I think I succeeded with. The one thing I struggled to accomplish was I want it to subtly reveal some of the classism in Nathaniel that he hasn’t confronted yet– that he may think of himself as high-minded, but that he considers attraction to a lower-class person to be vulgar for a gentleman –and I’m not sure I executed with sufficient clarity and understatement. It was too easy to gloss over “I’m not attracted to people beneath my class” with “I don’t sexually harass people at work” and “I’m married and so not paying much attention to any outside people romantically.”

But I think I did a good job characterizing Justin. He tweaks Nathaniel, who’s way more of a goody-goody, which is fun. And I love writing the relationship between them as brothers. “Frasier” is one of my all-time favorite shows, and the way they depict the brothers and their relationship really is the best part.

~~~

NATHANIEL: Just what do you think you’re doing?

JUSTIN: Why, making friends.

NATHANIEL: Bollocks.

JUSTIN: Such language!

NATHANIEL: Don’t play the innocent with me. I see how you’re prowling around Mary.

JUSTIN: You said she’s a lovely girl, I wanted to make her acquaintance for myself.

NATHANIEL: I know what you want with lovely girls.

JUSTIN: Well, can you blame me?

NATHANIEL: Stay away from her.

JUSTIN: Why ever should I?

NATHANIEL: She’s a sweet and decent girl. She doesn’t deserve to be led on by the likes of you.

JUSTIN: Led on!

NATHANIEL: I’ll not have you telling her pretty lies just so you can…

JUSTIN: So I can what, brother?

NATHANIEL: Get your own way. Whatever that is.

JUSTIN: Ha! Who’s playing the innocent now?

NATHANIEL: Don’t be vulgar.

JUSTIN: Ha! I should think you’d know me by now, old boy.

NATHANIEL: And you call yourself a gentleman. I mean, really, Auntie’s maid?

JUSTIN: What’s the harm? It’s not like she has some grand society reputation to protect. Unless you think Aunt Victoria would be cross?

NATHANIEL: No! Well, perhaps, but–

JUSTIN: Well, I’m quite used to weathering Auntie’s wrath. What, do you think she’d dismiss the girl over it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t think so– but that’s not the point.

JUSTIN: Aunt Victoria doesn’t have to know.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing to do with Aunt Victoria, for heaven’s sake!

JUSTIN: Then what’s it to you? Unless you fancy her.

NATHANIEL: Justin!

JUSTIN: Shame on you, you’re a married man.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t that! How dare you?

JUSTIN: It’s just as well. Wouldn’t have thought you had it in you.

NATHANIEL: Of course not.

JUSTIN: She is lovely girl, though, isn’t she?

NATHANIEL: She is.

JUSTIN: And you were the one that brought her here. Are you telling me you’ve never noticed her?

NATHANIEL: I don’t prowl after the help.

JUSTIN: I’d forgotten, you’re far too lofty to spare a glance to a creature of lower classes. I confess, though, I’d rather begun to wonder.

NATHANIEL: About what!?

JUSTIN: About why you spend so much time around Auntie’s maid. The fine old boy hasn’t descended to the level of the rest of us, has he? Started to envy all the fun I have while you’re bound up in the monotony of married life?

NATHANIEL: Yes, that’s it exactly, Justin, I’ve installed my working class mistress in my aunt’s own house because I wanted to be just like my dear big brother. Mary and I, we’ve… rather made friends, is all.

JUSTIN: Friends.

NATHANIEL: Yes! Is that so unheard of?

JUSTIN: I’d say so.

NATHANIEL: There’s no harm in it.

JUSTIN: Still, it’s very odd. Just out of curiosity, what does Clara think?

NATHANIEL: Of what?

JUSTIN: Of your most harmless friendship.

NATHANIEL: Well… I don’t suppose she knows much of it.

JUSTIN: You mean you’ve kept it from her? I thought she led you so around by the nose you had no secrets!

NATHANIEL: I don’t! Not really! It’s only that I haven’t… brought it up as yet.

JUSTIN: Hmmm. And why is that, do you think?

NATHANIEL: Oh, wipe that look off your face!

JUSTIN: You must know what that sounds like.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing untoward!

JUSTIN: Then why, my virtuous brother, must you hide it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t mean to. I only… I only don’t know how to do it. Tell her, I mean.

JUSTIN: Afraid she’ll cast the same aspersion upon your character as I have just now?

NATHANIEL: I’m afraid she might… misunderstand.

JUSTIN: Oh, why worry for it? You need never tell her if it will only make trouble.

NATHANIEL: I hate keeping things from her.

JUSTIN: Why prod the bear if you don’t have to?

NATHANIEL: She’s my wife, Justin, not some terrible monster from the woods.

JUSTIN: Wives, terrors, it’s all the same to me. But it isn’t even as if you’re deceiving her. If you’ve done nothing, then you’ve nothing to tell her.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t only that.

JUSTIN: What, then? Do you she think she wouldn’t believe you?

NATHANIEL: Not so much that…

JUSTIN: Or wouldn’t approve?

NATHANIEL: Perhaps. Of my reasons for spending time with Miss Stone.

JUSTIN: And what might they be? Beyond her more obvious charms.

NATHANIEL: Oh, you wouldn’t understand.

JUSTIN: My. Must be byzantine indeed if it’s beyond both Clara and myself. Well, brother, I hope you can find a way to make things clear one way or another.

NATHANIEL: I thought you advocated avoiding the issue entirely.

JUSTIN: So I do. But I know you well enough to see it won’t sit well with you. And if you’re keeping it from your wife, it must be something remarkable indeed.

12/11/13

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What Nathaniel does for a living, and other middle-class folks

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Categories: character, themes, Tags: , , , , ,

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People sometimes ask me what Nathaniel’s day job is. He does have one, you know, even though it’s never directly mentioned in the text. It’s important because the Hawkings are supposed to be quintessentially middle-class people. The Victorian period was the first time in Western history that the middle class were becoming an important demographic, a group with a lot of their own money and growing political influence. Still, the old class system that prioritized the nobility still hadn’t totally been overcome, so there is an interesting conflict between those with titles and all the hereditary powers associated with them, and increasingly significant professional class that was growing richer and more numerous than they. I want this conflict to have a presence in and effect on the story, as classism is a major theme I want to engage with.

So Nathaniel, as it happens, is what would have been called back in the day a speculative financier– or in modern terms, a venture capitalist. They find promising business ventures, which in this time tended to be resource acquisition in the colonies, and lend them the startup money to get going. His father Ambrose is the head of the firm and Nathaniel has recently become a partner. I am leaning toward Ambrose being the founder, and having him be the first generation of the Hawking family to attain significant wealth and social prominence. Nathaniel’s elder brother Justin may be part of this as well, I haven’t decided yet. The Colonel was not so much, as he was pursuing his military career, but I do think he had a financial stake in the operations. This would enable him to have, as they say, “incomes” from investments. Mrs. Hawking inherited these as his widow, and they provide her with a very significant return.

I like to think that Mrs. Hawking doesn’t think about them, or any money, very much at all. She is the daughter of a prominent, high-ranking military official and went from there to be the wife of another one, so she has never had to worry about such things. I don’t think she’s particularly materialistic, but I also think she’s pretty used to never being limited by money. Again, I want classism to be a big theme in these stories, so this part of her needs to come into conflict with the characters around her that haven’t been so fortunate.

Moreover, she’s in control of her money. As a widow, nobody has power over it but her. That is a MAJOR feminist issue– women with financial resources of their own have a great deal more agency and independence than those who don’t. This casts her in sharp contrast to most women in her society, and those are the sorts who will need her help the most. Her lack of strong consciousness about the privilege that gives her could be an interesting source of drama when she encounters those not as fortunate as her. This could even include Mary, who despite her closeness and growing importance to her mistress, is still her maidservant, still massively less privileged and in a strongly subordinate position.

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