LJ 2018: BOTB: Chapter 19 Pictures at an Exhibition

Lady Jayne
Clan Fraser
Joined: October 4th, 2009, 7:41 pm

April 13th, 2018, 5:22 am #1

Chapter 19: Pictures at an Exhibition

John has a day’s leave following the wedding and uses it to spend time with Percy and to investigate Dr. Gilbert Rigby, one of his mother’s former suitors. The errand has him visiting the courtyard of the Foundling Hospital with Percy where he admires the portraits of the Dilettante Society’s art exhibition and a most interesting pug named Hercules that is dressed in a black velvet jacket embroidered with butterflies and wearing a brimmed hat tied to its head.

John and Percy seem to be adjusting well to their newfound intimacy. Nevertheless, Percy questions whether John wishes he were different in terms of his preference for male partners. They discuss the Duke of Villiers who was thought to be the lover of King James and immune to prosecution for “abominable perversion.” The Duke had been killed by a naval office at the age of 36 due to his military incompetence.

Before they can finish their discussion, Captain Rigby greets John and Percy. He doesn’t recognize John who reminds him who he is by telling him the Dowager Countess of Melton sends her regards. The captain apologizes and awkwardly acknowledges John's resemblance to his father. John tells Rigby his mother has remarried. Rigby is quick to admit he once asked Benedicta to marry him and inquires if John is married. John is caught off-guard by the question. He has never contemplated marriage, unlike Percy. Percy is not particularly fond of children and shares with John how his mother wanted to admit him to the orphanage and would have if he had been younger. Percy did not begrudge his mother’s desperation as his father had died the year before. The subject is suddenly closed as quickly as it was introduced. Instead John discusses Rigby and how he thinks the captain had nothing to do with his father’s murder.

John and Percy resume their previous discussion about keeping up appearances. “Do you ever wish that you were . . . not as you are?” (255 hardcover). John has no doubt he is happy as he is and has no wish to change. The same can’t be said for Percy who appears to be inclined to change for an easier way of life. Even so, Percy notes there are many women taken with both of them. Percy wonders if they are damned. Again, John stands firm in his opinion that “Men are made in God’s image, or so I’m told. Likewise, that we differ from the animals in having reason. Reason, therefore, must plainly be a characteristic of the Almighty, quod erat demonstrandum” (258 hc).

A few days later Percy brings up the matter again. He wonders if there is a difference in terms of feeling between a man and a woman. Percy is having some doubts about who he is and who society thinks he should be. He senses that John is not in love with him and that he harbors feelings for someone else. John reassures Percy he had nothing to worry about but doesn’t mention Jamie Fraser.

John and Percy are getting serious. “The unexpected intimacy of mind between them was as intoxicating—and occasionally as unsettling—as that of the flesh” (262 hc). John has found love.  He is surprised he shared his great secret with Percy and feels a sort of lurking unease at the secret he guarded for so long. Percy is curious to know what happened after John found his father’s body, as is the reader. John explains he was only 12 years old and was afraid to confide in anyone. The death was declared a suicide; John was sent north to stay with distant cousins of his mother’s in Aberdeen, and Benedicta went to live in France for several years. John speculates his mother was protecting her sons from the talk that followed. Perhaps she was also seeking her husband’s killer for revenge.

It seems Percy also witnessed the death of this father who was run over by a mail coach. The experience wasn’t as traumatic for Percy as he hated his father. It is curious that John never revealed to his mother or brother that he knows his father’s death was not a suicide. John presumes the murderer wanted to stop John’s father from divulging someone’s Jacobite ties. Another question that is discussed is how the murderer came to possess the journal. Presumably it was taken from the study after the murder, which means the killer returned to the house to retrieve it, possibly expecting to find some incriminating information in it. Could it have been one of the visitors who came to support the family or one of the servants? At this point John determines he will need to visit Helwater again to get some answers.

Here is an image of the portrait by William Larkin located at The National Portrait Gallery in London.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
attributed to William Larkin, and studio of William Larkin
oil on canvas, circa 1616
81 in. x 47 in. (2057 mm x 1194 mm)
Given by Benjamin Seymour Guinness, 1952
Primary Collection
NPG 3840
This chapter continues to explore John’s memories of his father’s murder, possible suspects and motives. John is a bit uneasy at having shared his secret with Percy. Perhaps it is too personal, or it could be he does not wish to place Percy in any danger. Were you surprised about the circumstances behind the death of Percy’s father? Is he telling tales to help John feel more comfortable about confiding in him? Likewise, why is Percy asking so may questions about whether John wishes he were different? Percy seems to be exploring the possibility of marrying later in order to keep up appearances.

Please share your thoughts about this chapter.

Clan Fraser
Clan Fraser
Joined: May 26th, 2012, 7:06 am

April 13th, 2018, 6:58 am #2

Thank you for the detailed summary, Lady Jayne.I get confused over the details of John's father's death, so at least Percy's father had a straightforward, if uncommon, end. It is interesting that Percy keeps asking whether John is happy in who he is, and also pursues the notion of marriage. It seems that Percy is not happy with who he is - can he be happy with John, or is he seeking something else? Should this be a warning bell for John who is happy with who he is (and who we know values integrity)?

Joined: October 12th, 2016, 1:49 am

April 13th, 2018, 7:32 am #3

Lady Jayne...great summary and I just love the portrait of Buckingham...how fitting that the Queen lives in his house today!!! LOL.
It seems as though LJ has ruled out Dr. Rigby as one of his suspects. Poor little dog having to wear a hat!  
There is a lot in this chapter about appearances and trust and it seemed to me that Percy is not quite as easy with his sexuality and preferences as is LJ in spite of the growing affection and physical satisfaction they are sharing. Percy seems a little bit unsettled and I don't think it is all related to his rather deprived childhood. Is LJ just a bit uneasy about the speed at which this new relationship is developing?
I also cannot work out how the journal was stolen, from where and why and how pages from it are turning up now. Is it just that  Benedictas's recent marriage that has stirred ancient history up again?

Lisa SF
Clan Fraser
Joined: August 2nd, 2011, 11:43 pm

April 13th, 2018, 2:16 pm #4

Great summary, and thanks for sharing the portrait! I agree with the observations above, that Percy seems uncomfortable with who he is. Maybe it's just that he hasn't had this level of intimacy before and had the opportunity to discuss these matters, but he does seem to have a much harder time than John in terms of being happy with himself. Maybe with John's family's wealth and status, he's been able to have satisfaction and confidence in a way that Percy hasn't. Certainly life would be easier for any gay man at that time if he tried to fit in with society's expectations, marry, have children, etc. 

I wasn't clear at the end why the discussion of the journal should make John realize he needed to go see Jamie again. Is it just to see whether Jamie is familiar with any of the names of family friends who might have had access to the house at the time of the Duke's death? 
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Clan Fraser
Joined: July 19th, 2010, 10:09 pm

April 13th, 2018, 2:53 pm #5

Great summary and comments.  I just finished listening and was amused at one point when Jeff Woodman - who does a fantastic job at narrating the Lord John books - accidentally said Perry when he meant Percy.  

Anyway, I agree that Percy is less comfortable with his preferences because he is not as comfortable financially and in society, so he is perhaps at more risk in some ways than John is.  I also think that his realization that John is not in love with him (even though his feelings for John might be stronger?  What do you think - is Percy in love with John?) makes him feel more uncertain about this relationship and that makes him think of his situation more broadly.

Percy's father's death explains how he knew John did not look like someone who had been run over by a mail coach when John said that after he was attacked at Bates' hanging.

I liked Rigby and Hercules. :-)  He definitely didn't seem like a good candidate for having sent the journal pages unless he's an Oscar-worthy actor.  I think John can cross him off the list.

Like Lisa, I think John feels he needs to see Jamie to discover whether any of the people who visited the house after his father's death were Jacobites or sympathizers who might have feared that John's father would expose them.  Jamie knows far more about who was and was not a Jacobite than anyone else John could ask.

I tend to think of Percy as being younger and not quite as smart as John (I may have said this in an earlier chapter thread, but can't remember for sure).  It's true that he doesn't know as much about society and military stuff and he probably isn't quite as well-educated.  But, on this read, I'm noticing how much he figures out.  He's smarter than I tend to think of him as being and I'm going to try to keep that in mind going forward since he deserves credit for figuring things out and asking John pointed questions that lead John to figure more things out - or investigate them to find answers.  

Every time I see the title of this chapter, I think of Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky because we played part of it back when I was in marching band in high school. 

Joined: January 31st, 2017, 11:53 pm

April 13th, 2018, 8:47 pm #6

Thanks, Lady Jayne, for the summary.  Percy's concern about wishing to be different is so sad.  It shows how unhappy he is with himself and it's no wonder.  His father made it very clear that sodomy was a damnable offense and evil.  Every child wants to win their parent's approval and a young Percy, perhaps sensing he had these "damnable" tendencies, would realize that he would never be loved by his father.  Then he learns that his mother wanted to abandon him to an orphanage.  He certainly didn't receive the love and acceptance that John did.  We see Benedicta's devotion throughout the story.  So aside from not having the social and financial advantages that John had, he also had other issues to deal with.  No wonder he questioned who he was. 

Joined: August 7th, 2017, 4:50 am

April 14th, 2018, 4:04 am #7

Thanks for summarizing a complicated chapter, Lady Jayne, and for posting the painting of the duke. 

It's interesting that Percy and John could discern that he was gay.  What jumped out at me was how his head looked like it was just stuck on his neck, and the jewelled garter (or whatever) he had on his leg.  I agree that Rigby seems innocuous.

All the background info about Percy just shows how his upbringing has been so different from John's.  Readers get an inkling of how difficult life was for families without money.  That Percy doesn't seem bitter is really pretty remarkable.  He doesn't have the level of education that John has but he is street smart and has a lot of emotional intelligence, which is how and why he relates so well to John.

The conversations about whether or not they could accept who they are were sad.  But I don't quite see why John inferred that Percy wasn't in love with him. 

At first, I didn't understand why John would need to talk to Jamie again but after reading everyone's comments, it makes sense that Jamie'd know who the Jacobites in France were and could tell John if any of the visitors to the house in Jermyn street were Jacobites.

Like ABL, I immediately think of Mussorgsky whenever I read the title of this chapter.  I'm trying to think if there's a deeper meaning to the title besides the obvious one of looking at paintings in an art gallery but can't come up with anything.
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. ~ Oscar Wilde
'I noticed you capped all my best quotations,' said Lymond absently. ~ The Ringed Castle

Joined: October 7th, 2017, 11:10 pm

April 15th, 2018, 4:17 pm #8

Lady Jayne. thank you for your summary and for the the attachment of the portrait John and Percy were gazing at.

It is interesting to note the chapter begins with a demonstration of John's brutal rough approach to sex.  John did try to apologize but Percy didn't seem to mind.  (Maybe he is used to such treatment.)  In the opposite direction, the chapter shows Percy to be a gentle generous and very skilled lover with slow hands.(another reference to pop music).  This seems to be a problem for John.  The experience was extremely intense, resulted in his complete sexual surrender and brought him close to tears.  This surrender and loss of control scares John and he pretty much swears off offering himself to Percy in that manner again for a while. 

John's feelings about sharing his experience of his father's death with Percy may be ambivalent but he need to talk and Percy appears to be taking that trust seriously.  He seems to truly want to help John deal with the issue.  John is at times uncomfortable but Percy does ask cogent questions.

We know that each of the Lord John books encompasses a murder mystery that John solves..  It seems Percy also has a mind for sleuthing.  I hadn't thought of it before but must remember it for future reference.

LisaSF, you made some interesting points about Percy that I do agree with.  The name he so detests has a strong religious connotation and his father seems to have been of the George Whitefield Calvinist sect of Methodist street preachers.  His marriage may have been like Whitefields.  That is, he succumbed to the flesh by marrying but then it was his duty to God to deny the flesh and live as though he was not married. Lot of guilt there.  Diana frequently incorporates psychological elements into her work and having a degree in child development I can say, if a parent feels guilt it is imparted to the child.

Susanruth, you honed in another important concept in child development.  In spite of the loss of his father and other issues, John was raised with a sense of rationality and knowing his parents loved an valued him.  He thus saw himself as having value and worthy of love and respect.  Percy was raised with religious dogma and a sense that he was predestined for hell.  He had no value.  Percy wants to be loved.  He asks John to please not be sorry he had shared the story of his father.  In a way he is saying, please don't be sorry you let me into your life.  Is he worthy?

ABL, so much of what you said in your post coincides with my own thoughts, it is eerie.  I do believe Percy is just a year younger than John.  He was educated but not in the classic style.  Basic education to ensure believers ability to read the Bible was a basic tenet of Methodism.   Since turning his back on his faith he has branched out into reading novels and enjoying the theater.  I think Percy is intelligent.  Leslie Emry,  I had just penciled in the term emotional intelligence on some notes I was going to use to make this post.  The I opened the site and saw your comment.  WOW!

John doesn't want Percy to be in love with him.  John is denying his own baby steps in that direction.

Clan Fraser
Joined: September 17th, 2009, 3:16 am

April 15th, 2018, 9:08 pm #9

Thank you Lady Jayne for a wonderful summary.  Great painting of the Duke.  Thank you for posting it; it's always nice to have a visual.  The pug sounds adorable.  Sweet too to allow the bonnet on its head.

Susanruth said
"His father made it very clear that sodomy was a damnable offense and evil.  Every child wants to win their parent's approval and a young Percy, perhaps sensing he had these "damnable" tendencies, would realize that he would never be loved by his father."
I agree with what you wrote Susanruth, with Hevva and Vita.  Percy is not quite comfortable with his preference and it's probably because his father was a strict methodist.  Religious ideas are ingrained and not that easy to overcome.  John's upbringing was not a strict one with regard to religion.  I rather think that Percy wanted to introduce the religion by starting with what his father had named him.  I think it was a conversation starter meant to lead to asking John whether he thinks that they are damned for their choice.

Susanruth wrote:
"We see Benedicta's devotion throughout the story.  So aside from not having the social and financial advantages that John had, he also had other issues to deal with.  No wonder he questioned who he was." 
I wonder if Percy feels his father looking on.  It must have taken Percy aback to hear that John had been run over by a mail coach, especially since that was what actually did happen to his father.  That is a bit spooky.  Percy may have interpreted what John says, although he knows it to be an excuse, as a message from the beyond.  That might have made Percy uneasy.

Lisa wrote:  'Certainly life would be easier for any gay man at that time if he tried to fit in with society's expectations, marry, have children, etc. " 
Agreed. Von Namtzen himself takes that path so he can maintain a respectful place in his society.  Namtzen also has to think of his children.  The other possibility is that perhaps Percy could live married to a woman and sire children whereas John could not.  

Lady Jayne wrote: 
"He senses that John is not in love with him and that he harbors feelings for someone else. John reassures Percy he had nothing to worry about but doesn’t mention Jamie Fraser."
This is most troubling.  Perhaps John revealed his father's murder to avoid having to talk about Jamie Fraser. Thoughts of Jamie had to have interfered.  Percy is quite a perceptive young man.  The question of love that Percy has pretty much reveals that Jamie is in love with someone:
Percy: "Who was he?  Or is he?"
John:  "Is." 
I felt terrible for Percy.  
LeslieEmrys wrote:  "it makes sense that Jamie'd know who the Jacobites in France were and could tell John if any of the visitors to the house in Jermyn street were Jacobites."
I just wish he could have told Percy.  John seems to want to keep Jamie Fraser totally to himself and that's what Percy senses.  It's not just Hector's ghost that he has to contend with but an unknown ghost, which John has not let him know about, only that there is no possibility for anything to exist between himself and this unknown.  Of course Percy would have known had John told him about Jamie.  

audiobooklover wrote: "Every time I see the title of this chapter, I think of Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky" 
Audio and Leslie, I thought of that piece too.  I had to have a listen again:  here  

This post was edited at 10:10 pm EST.
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings

Joined: September 30th, 2016, 8:02 pm

April 16th, 2018, 7:20 pm #10

Lady Jayne, thank you for the great summary and the portrait of the Duke of Villiers. I could swear I made a reply here last week,  but it must have gotten eaten. 

I liked meeting Rigby and am no longer suspicious of him, based on his reactions to what John told him. 

I loved the developing easy rapport between John and Percy -- particularly when Percy tells John his father was run over by a mail coach, and John assumes Percy is teasing him, and calls him, simply, "ass." It's the type of comment I'd say to my husband when he thinks he is being funny.  In any case I wasn't suspicious about the death of Percy's father, as LJ asks. 

also, SusanRuth - that is a really good point about Percy's reaction to John's comment about being run over, possibly seeing it as a message from beyond!!!

ABL- I caught that "Perry" too, lol. Is Percy in love with John, as you ask? I think he might be. Thank you for pointing out exactly why Percy would know John didn't look like he'd been run over by a mail coach - missed that!

Vita21 - re John and Percy's different approaches to sex... John being a beast and Percy more gentle... John definitely seems unnerved by Percy's approach. Maybe it is close to what he had with Hector, something he hasn't had in a long time? 

I loved J&P's philsophical discussion about hell and man being made in God's image.