Sunday, March 25, 2018

ABC's of Lord John Grey



ABC's of Lord John Grey

I borrowed this idea from a writer's exercise that was posted on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community (now TheLitForum.com) a few years ago. The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation. Here's my alphabet for Lord John.

All quotes from the OUTLANDER and Lord John books are copyright © Diana Gabaldon, of course.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

If you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books and stories, you will find Major Spoilers below! Read at your own risk.

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

A for Ardsmuir Prison, where Lord John served as Governor, and where he first formed a tentative friendship with Jamie Fraser.

B for Blurter. John has a habit of impulsively blurting out things he shouldn't, particularly under stress.
"I did not come with the intention of seducing your husband, I assure you,” he said.

“John!” Jamie’s fist struck the table with a force that rattled the teacups. His cheekbones were flushed dark red, and he was scowling with embarrassed fury.

“Sorry.” Grey, by contrast, had gone white, though he remained otherwise visibly unruffled. It occurred to me for the first time that he might possibly be as unnerved as Jamie by this meeting.

“My apologies, ma’am,” he said, with a curt nod in my direction. “That was unforgivable."
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Enter a Serpent". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
C for Crefeld, the site of the battle where Lord John was badly injured by an exploding cannon. Also Claire, of course.

D for Dueling. We've seen Lord John fight two duels, in "The Custom of the Army" and THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, and in both cases those duels had consequences that he could not have foreseen.

E for the Electric-Eel party that Lord John attended in "The Custom of the Army".

F for Friendship.  Lord John values his relationships with his friends, from Harry Quarry to Stephan von Namtzen to Brianna, but above all with Jamie Fraser.  Even after the disastrous chess game at Ardsmuir, when Jamie did everything he could to sever their relationship, John still acted as a friend:
And he had not done it for revenge or from indecent motives, for he never gloated, made no advances; never said anything beyond the most commonplace civilities. No, he had brought Jamie here because it was the best he could do; unable simply to release him at the time, Grey had done his best to ease the conditions of captivity--by giving him air, and light, and horses.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "Willie". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love watching the evolution of Jamie and Lord John's relationship over the course of the series, and I was fascinated to see how they gradually healed their friendship in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. (If you haven't read that book, I highly recommend it!)

G for the Graf von Erdberg, aka Stephan von Namtzen, Lord John's good friend.

H for his elder brother Hal. Hal may be a ruthless SOB, but the brothers love each other deeply. H is also for Lord John's sense of Honor, which is an essential aspect of his character.

I for Isobel Dunsany, younger sister to Geneva, whom Lord John married shortly after Jamie left Helwater.

J for James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, of course. Jamie's life has been inextricably intertwined with Lord John's for many years. But their relationship hasn't always been an easy one, to put it mildly!
"You did forgive him, though," [Brianna] said quietly. "Why?"

He sat up then, and shrugged, but didn't put away her hand.

"I had to." He glanced at her, eyes straight and level. "I hated him for as long as I could. But then I realized that loving him ... that was part of me, and one of the best parts. It didn't matter that he couldn't love me, that had nothing to do with it. But if I could not forgive him, then I could not love him, and that part of me was gone. And I found eventually that I wanted it back."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "Blackmail". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Considering how tense and uncomfortable their relationship is at the end of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, I really hope that Jamie will come to a similar realization before too long, and forgive John.

K for Kindness.  Lord John has gone out of his way to help Jamie and his family in many ways over the years, sending them gifts (vitriol and glass globes for Claire's ether-making, a set of toy soldiers for Jemmy, and so on) and even posing as Brianna's fiancĂ© for several months to protect her from Jocasta's efforts to marry her off.

L for Loyalty.  John is extremely loyal to his family, to his friends, to the men in his regiment, and to his country.  That last will cause him some difficulty as the Revolutionary War progresses, as Jamie notes:
Oh, God, and there was John. What could he say to his friend, when the time came? Convince him by logic and rhetoric to change his coat as well? He hissed through his teeth and shook his head in consternation, trying--and failing utterly--to envision John Grey, lifelong soldier, ex-Royal Governor, that very soul of loyalty and honor, suddenly declaring himself for rebellion and republic.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 41, "The Gun-Smith". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I had to laugh, in MOHB, when John was forced by circumstances beyond his control to do just that. <g>

M for Manoke, the Native American cook at Mt. Josiah plantation with whom John has had a long-term sexual relationship.
"It is not merely the relief of necessary urges," he added pointedly, turning his head to meet my eyes. "There is true liking between us."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 95, "Numbness". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
N for his Nephews and Niece: Benjamin, Adam, Henry, and Dottie.

O for his sexual Orientation. John's homosexuality is an integral part of his character, to be sure, but it does not define him. He's not a "gay character", he's a character who happens to be gay, and I think that distinction is important.  John is surprisingly comfortable with his sexuality, even though it was considered an unspeakable perversion, and a capital crime, in the 18th century.
"Do you ever wish that you were ... not as you are?"

The question took him by surprise--and yet he was somewhat more surprised to realize that he did not need to think about the answer.

"No," he said.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Pictures at an Exhibition". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
P for Percy Wainwright.  Percy's betrayal hit John very hard, and even twenty years later, in ECHO, he still doesn't trust the man at all. P is also for Protection.  As Percy tells John in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, chapter 21: "You protect everyone, John--I don’t suppose you can help it.”

Q for Quick-Witted.  Lord John is highly intelligent and a quick thinker, which makes him a good person to have around in a crisis.  Q is also for Harry Quarry, a loyal friend to both John and his brother Hal.

R for Rationalist. Unlike many of the major characters in Diana Gabaldon's books, Lord John doesn't have a strong religious faith:
Now and then he wished ardently that he had faith in a merciful God and an afterlife in which the dead might live on--Jamie Fraser had such faith; burned with it, in a way that excited both Grey’s curiosity and his envy. But Grey was a rationalist. He accepted the existence of God, but had no conviction of the nature of such a being, and no sense that his creator took a personal interest in him. Just as well, considering.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 5, "Genius and Sub-Genius". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
S for Soldier. Lord John was a soldier for most of his adult life.  I like the advice that he gives William in ECHO:
"Orders,” he repeated. “You follow orders, of course; you have to. But there will be times when you have no orders, or find yourself in a situation which has changed suddenly. And there will be times--there will be times, William--when your own honor dictates that you cannot follow an order. In such circumstances, you must follow your own judgment, and be prepared to live with the consequences.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Long Island". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
T for Tom Byrd, Lord John's valet, and one of the most memorable minor characters in Diana Gabaldon's books.

U for Unrequited. It took John a long time to accept that his feelings of love for Jamie Fraser would never be reciprocated.
"Do you know," he said again, softly, addressing his hands, "what it is to love someone, and never--never!--be able to give them peace, or joy, or happiness?”

He looked up then, eyes filled with pain. “To know that you cannot give them happiness, not through any fault of yours or theirs, but only because you were not born the right person for them?"

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "In Which Much Is Revealed". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
V for Vocabulary. From the moment he first appeared as the sixteen-year-old William Grey in DRAGONFLY, calling Jamie a "poltroon" and an "unprincipled voluptuary", I have always found Lord John's choice of words highly entertaining, just as Bree does:
"You say I do not know your feelings, which is undeniably true." He allowed a tinge of wryness to creep into his voice. "Whatever they are, though, they must be exigent, to cause you to contemplate such drastic expedients."

A slow smile grew on her lips, spreading into her eyes.

"I really like the way you talk," she said.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62, "Three-Thirds of a Ghost". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
W for William, the bastard son of Jamie Fraser, whom John raised as his own son from the age of six.
"So you see, there is no blood between us at all--and yet were any man to impugn my affection for him, or to say he is not my son, I would call him out on the instant for it."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "Forgiveness". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
X for the eXplosion of the cannon during the battle of Crefeld in 1758, which nearly killed him.

Y for Youngest.  As the youngest of the four Grey brothers, Lord John is free to pursue his own career and interests, in a way that his brother Hal cannot.

Z for Zombies. Lord John's encounter with a zombie on Jamaica was unforgettable!
Bloody hell, where was the man? If it was a man. For even as his mind reasserted its claim to reason, his more visceral faculties were recalling Rodrigo's parting statement: Zombie are dead people, sah. And whatever was here in the dark with him seemed to have been dead for several days, judging from its smell.

He could hear the rustling of something moving quietly toward him. Was it breathing? He couldn't tell, for the rasp of his own breath, harsh in his throat, and the blood-thick hammering of his heart in his ears.

(From "A Plague of Zombies" by Diana Gabaldon, in SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL. Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I hope you enjoyed these! Here are the other posts in this series:

ABC's of Jamie Fraser
ABC's of Claire Fraser
ABC's of Roger
ABC's of Brianna
ABC's of the OUTLANDER TV Series 

4 comments:

Railie Douglas said...

I did enjoy that! Well summed up Karen. He’s such a likeable & admirable character. Embodies so many qualities I admire & hold dear.

Elisa Pitoniak said...

I absolutely love Lord John’s character and have been fortunate enough to read all the books in this series! Great observations as always!!!

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen beautiful , and the Lord John series is just as great as the Outlander series and will be reading the books this Spring and hope to be seeing more or Lord John in season 4 this Fall . please post more soon. Happy Week. sincerely .

Nancy Basile said...

OMG I love Lord John. The novellas about him are just wonderful. I think he's my third favorite character. Roger is a close fourth.