Outlander Book Club: Lord John and the Private Matter Chapter 1 breakdown

Lord John Grey has to deal with a medical issue in Lord John and the Private Matter Chapter 1. Here's our breakdown of the chapter.
Outlander Season 6 -- Courtesy of Robert Wilson/STARZ
Outlander Season 6 -- Courtesy of Robert Wilson/STARZ /

Lord John and the Private Matter is a chance to get to know Lord John Grey. We learn more about who he is as a person and his family dynamic.

In the first chapter, we immediately open to learn a little more about his family as a whole. I think this gives us a great insight into why he took on William without so much of a major request. He didn’t think twice, and it wasn’t just for Jamie’s sake.

We learn that his cousin Olivia is an orphan. John’s brother Hal has taken guardianship of her, and he’s the one to arrange a marriage. However, as Hal is away, it’s left John in charge of dealing with the upcoming nuptials.

That’s where we find him in the first chapter. There’s a major issue that’s arisen, and it looks like the wedding needs to be called off.

Chapter 1 of Lord John and the Private Matter

The book picks up with Lord John Grey learning that the man set to marry his cousin may have the pox. The Honorable Joseph Trevelyan comes has come to John to share this, and John needs some advice. He turns to Harry Quarry for this advice, and I just love how the two have bonded since the events in Lord John and the Hellfire Club.

Lord John and Harry decide that the best option is to get John to a brothel. The women there will be able to tell if Joseph does have the pox. One thing I love about John is that he doesn’t care about Joseph having syphilis. It’s more that this man is set to marry his cousin, and he refuses for Olivia to be exposed to that disease.

If it turns out that Joseph does have syphilis, then he will need to be the one to call off the wedding. If that doesn’t happen, John will have to expose him, and this will lead to a lot of embarrassment.

However, before all this, John has learned of a murder. John ran into Lieutenant Malcolm Stubbs—a name that is familiar now to those who have read Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone—who plans to visit the widow of a fellow soldier. It turns out this soldier, Timothy O’Connell was killed in a street brawl the night before, and the death seems a little suspicious.

John offers to pay his respects to O’Connell’s widow as well. There is a case to delve into, though. Diana Gabaldon wastes no time in getting into this story.

Could the chapter be used in an adaptation?

If there was ever a Lord John Grey series, I could see Lord John and the Private Matter certainly being used. It is a necessary introduction into Lord John and the people he knows. While the Hellfire Club goes into a little of his personality and skills, this novel goes into them in far more detail.

This chapter would be necessary in an adaptation. It sets up the story with the murder and with the other “private matter.” We get a chance to see that John is a family man, and this really does explain why he immediately treats William as his own son—other members of his family have taken in people when needed. It seems to be a Grey thing.

We also get a reminder of the time. There isn’t a treatment for syphilis yet. Even if Claire was around, there wouldn’t be a treatment. She didn’t have access to penicillin the first time she was in the past. It was only 20 years later that she brought some back with her and then focused on making it herself.

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