By Charity Bishop
One of my favorite female characters lives the charming town of Candleford, on the edge of the small community of Lark Rise. Her name is Dorcas Lane and she runs the Post Office.
Dorcas is a romantic, a meddler with tact, and a woman who loves every one of her too-many-to-count “one weaknesses” (hot baths, lavender soap, fresh-made pies, spring mornings, etc). Someone who does not “always” abide by the rules of the Post Office in favor of kindness, Dorcas can find a way to bring the community together, resolve differences without losing her temper too much (she does let people have it now and again), and deliver the mail on time. She handles the busybody Miss Pratts, owners of the local dress shop and haberdashery, with a smile, she keeps her ultra-religious employee in line, and she alongside the teenage protaganist Laura Timmins “muddles her way through” various misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and opportunities.
The story opens with Laura leaving her country home to live in town with Dorcas. She soon adapts to and loves working for the post office, but in her innocence, also makes a lot of mistakes. “Oh, Laura,” Dorcas sighs after one incident has caused a mess, “you remind me of myself sometimes.” And it’s true, both of them meddle. Rather a lot. And are not always aware of the bruising they do to others’ pride—especially with Laura’s father, the bull-headed, overly-sensitive, always-ready-to-get-offended Robert Timmons, who is a militant do-gooder in the community with too much pride. His wife often stomps all over it, in her efforts to keep them all fed.
Each episode stands alone, though entire arcs (romances, for example) carry the seasons forward. Laura falls in and out of love, as does Dorcas, who spends the first season attempting to sever ties with a man from her past—now married, he still prefers her company to that of his wife. Dorcas, after an agonizing look into herself, must remind him his place is “by her side, not mine.” She tangles with a wealthy businessman and winds up raising a child not her own, out of the goodness of her heart and her fondness for her “little man,” Sydney. There are other memorable characters, from a local woman who won’t pay her tavern bills, to the irresponsible old man who believes in all sorts of good and bad luck, to the children who run in and out of Lark Rise, but Dorcas seems to be the soul of the community, as the Post Mistress.
In the 1800s, letters were the only way to communicate other than telegrams for those who lived distant from each other. Letters passed in and out of many hands before they reached their intended recipients. Dorcas has romanticized her role, but there is also truth to it—she has a responsibility and the great honor of “bringing the news.” Word from home passes through her—of births, deaths, anniversaries, announcements. She sees herself as part of a communication system and takes it seriously. Dorcas is not perfect. She mis-communicates. She makes mistakes. She prematurely judges others. But what I love most about her is—she sees when she was wrong, she apologizes, and she makes it right. Dorcas learns she’s not always right, her instincts aren’t always right, and that sometimes she has to learn to bite her tongue rather than interfere—and in the process she is wonderfully, blissfully human.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop devotes her free time to eating chocolate, debating theology with her friends, researching the Tudors and writing novels about them, caring for her beloved cats, running a MBTI typing blog, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life.