Happy Afternoons for Pauper Lunatics

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The Story of a Modern Woman, Ella Hepworth Dixon, 1894

I am trying to remember why I added this book to my list and I am guessing that my past-self was hooked by the idea of a New Woman roman a clef. Dixon wrote about her own experience as a woman in a changing, Late Victorian World. Yeah, girl. Tell me what that was like. I am listening. I am ready to know how you define modern womanhood.

I know you are never going to read this obscure book, so here is a summary. Mary Erle is the daughter of a prominent scientist. When he dies, little orphan Mary must earn enough money to support herself and her younger brother. She tries to make it as an artist, but the painting that she works on for six months (six months!) is rejected from the Royal British Academy of Art or Whatever. Poor Mary. Fortunately, one of her more successful painter friends asks her to write a story to accompany a piece of his. Thus begins her career as a starving writer.

Meanwhile, her wealthier friend Alison takes an interest in helping less fortunate women. She wants to lead a more useful life than that of a London deb. Alison, who is far more interesting than Mary, seriously considers marrying the prominent doctor Dunlop Strange. I am not kidding. His name is Dr. Strange. Dunlop Strange. However, she encounters a dying woman in a hospital who turns out to be Strange’s abandoned mistress. Even though most Victorian women were expected to and did look past this type of masculine misbehavior, Alison cares about other women and is not about to marry a man who would toss someone aside like garbage.

Sadly, Alison catches a cold that, in combination with the mental shock of discovering her beau’s dying mistress, proves fatal. I know. That seems a bit too delicate, but they didn’t have antibiotics then. So, I suppose a thorough wetting and some bad news could. . .kill an otherwise healthy young woman? On her deathbed, Alison implores Mary to “Promise me you will never, never do anything to hurt another woman” because “there comes a time in our lives when we can do a great deal of harm or a great deal of good, or an incalculable amount of harm. If women only used their power in the right way! If we were only united we could lead the world.”

The implication is that if society women refused to marry men who ruin poor women’s lives and leave them to die in the gutter, men would have to stop doing that. It is tempting to think that female solidarity alone could generate a brave new world. It is a solution to the problem of male misbehavior that I have contemplated myself. It’s tough though, because, as Thomas Hardy wrote “Of all the ingenious and cruel satires that from the beginning till now have been stuck like knives into womankind, surely there is not one so lacerating to them, and to us who love them, as the trite old fact, that the most wretched of men can, in the twinkling of an eye, find a wife ready to be more wretched for the sake of his company.” Alison did not marry Dr. Strange, but someone will. He certainly wasn’t worth dying over, honey. Side note: How perfect is Thomas Hardy. So perfect.

Alison’s dying wish sets us up for the great crisis in Mary’s life. After stringing her along for years, her worthless lover marries a much wealthier woman, because he thinks her fortune can advance his political career. Later he has the audacity to come knocking at Mary’s door complaining about his unsatisfying marriage and begging her to runaway to France with him and live as his mistress. Of course, Mary tells him to jog on; she is a modern woman and modern women don’t bang each other’s husbands. I mean. . .it is certainly not the strongest feminist statement I have ever heard, but I will take it.

I appreciate that while the novel contains a strong dose of self-pity, Hepworth Dixon spends ample time acknowledging that other women have it much worse. She was well-connected, after all. One of her connections was Oscar Wilde, who appears in the book split into several different characters. He offers Mary writing work, but she still disdains his company, finding him too acerbic.

 

Here’s a quote:

“‘Oh, dear Miss Erle,’ said a shrill voice at the door, ‘do come in. It’s such a nice party. I wonder,’ continued Mr. Beaufort Flower, who entertained a good deal himself, ‘why other people’s parties are so much nicer than one’s own? I suppose it is because one always knows so many more people at other people’s houses?’

‘Who is here?’ said Mary, who never troubled herself to laugh at his small witticisms.”

Um, excuse me, Ella. You had the privilege of being in Oscar Wilde’s presence and you never troubled yourself to laugh. I don’t know what you are trying to prove with that attitude, but you’ve only shown that your bad taste. Also, don’t try to write something witty that Oscar Wilde might have said. You are not up to the task. He was much funnier than you. Anyway, I will try to forgive her. Oscar Wilde did enough mocking of others that he deserved to be mocked a little.

Final thoughts: Not bad. I am glad I read it. If you are interested, give it a try. It is quite brief and fairly well-written. I enjoyed it. Not a masterpiece, but worthwhile if it appeals to you. I can’t end this post without telling you about “Happy Afternoons for Pauper Lunatics” which is a charity one of the characters in this book organizes. Feel free to use that for your next album title.

The Jungle Books

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The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling, 1894 and 1895

Uuuuuuuergh. I have struggled to find anything at all to say about imperialist scum-bag Kipling’s most famous works. Maybe if Disney stopped making movies about Mowgli, we could stop thinking about Kipling. I suppose it is ok to reclaim his characters for our own purposes. These books are not completely without merit, but they are hard to wrap the mind around. Quite paradoxical.

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Mowgli

 

Kipling was born in India, then educated in England for about ten years, after which he returned to India and became a journalist, poet and novelist. He claimed to love India, but was a fervent Imperialist who harbored deep prejudice against the “Orientals,” as he called them. See his unspeakably atrocious poem “The White Man’s Burden” for more information.

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Hathi the Elephant

Anyway, he wrote a book a young Indian boy, Mowgli, who is lost in the jungle when a tiger, Shere Khan, attacks his village.  Mowgli is adopted by a family of wolves. It seems a bit patronizing for this particular author to choose to write this character. Of course, he couldn’t depict a white, English boy living among beasts. So, it’s already yucky. However, it is a very compelling story concept. The idea of the feral child easily captures the imagination. And animals as characters is great. Everybody likes animals. The found family of Baloo, Bagheera and Kaa is quite endearing. They are a bear, a panther and a snake respectively.

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Baloo the Bear

There are two Jungle Books. After the success of the first, Kipling published another a year later, called The Second Jungle Book. Both contain stories that jump between characters and through time, which was a bad call. If Kipling had thought to tell Mowgli’s story from beginning to end in one volume, that would make a much better read than these two volumes, which I plodded begrudgingly through. They’re boring, y’all. His prose is dry and lifeless.

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Mang the Bat

For some reason, Kipling thought the animal society that Mowgli joins should have rigid rules, the Jungle Law, that Mowgli must memorize. He must show proper deference and courtesy to the various “people” of the jungle. The animals even speak in formal prose to cement the Arthurian nature of their world. What? Why even? The entire appeal of the jungle setting is wildness. *Tears hair out.* The feral child appeals, because he/she/they are surviving in a world without society. No rules to memorize. No caste. No school! Mowgli goes to jungle school. Really. Swing and a miss from Kipling. That is not the kind of learning required of boy raised by wolves. There are so many frustratingly poor artistic choices in these books.

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Bagheera the Panther

Most of the non-Mowgli centered stories are very bad and painfully dull. Some are only slightly bad, perhaps even worth reading. “The White Seal” is about a seal who searches for a breeding ground that hunters cannot reach. It’s a bit charming and has a distinct environmental perspective, but you have to overlook some nastiness towards native Arctic people. Blergh. When I was a kid, I loved the story “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” about a mongoose who defends a British family from two cobras. Mostly I just liked the wee mongoose’s name. He is quite brave and determined. But honestly, at 35, the story of an Indian mongoose bravely defending imperialists has lost some of its appeal.

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Akela the Wolf

Final Thoughts: Yup, we’re here already. I don’t have much to say about these books. They are under-stimulating. The plots of the Mowgli stories are dramatic and compelling. If only they had been better written. If only.

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One of the Bandar-log and Kaa the Snake

Final, Final Thoughts: Of course, I am not the kind of inconsiderate knitter who posts pictures of knitted items without telling you where the patterns came from.

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Jacala the Crocodile

Most of the patterns are by Anna Hrachovec, including the gator, the cat, the bat, the bear and the elephant. This is her ravelry page. You can also find her patterns on her website, Mochimochi Land. I used Tatyana Korobkova’s Small Tiger Doll pattern to make Mowgli wearing Shere Khan’s pelt, which is a thing that happens in the books, rather graphically. Akela the wolf is from Noel Margaret’s Wee Wandering Wolf pattern. I made the snake pattern up, but you could use this pattern from Just Be Crafty to make a very similar one.

Hot Victorian Nonsense

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The Fate of Fenella, collaborative, 1892

Collaborative novels are a Victorian literary trend too weird to be ignored. I picked one, The Fate of Fenella, essentially at random. There was no reason to think that it would be any good. Twenty-four authors agreed to write one chapter each with no preconceived outline. The next author read the preceding contributions and added on. The result is predictably chaotic. I did not mean to do an oxymoron there. It just happened. Of the twenty-four authors, I am pretty sure you have only heard of Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker.

I have summarized each chapter so you can judge the merit of each contribution for yourself.

  1. Helen Mathers. “Her hair, gloves, and shoes were tan-color, and closely allied to tan, too, was the tawny, true tiger tint of her hazel eyes.” Wow. I mean. It’s original. I have never heard the phrase “closely allied to tan.” I never needed to. The first chapter only goes downhill from this alliterative description of our monochromatic leading lady. The n-word appears in the first paragraph. Very gratuitously. It is quite assaulting. Anyway, beautiful young mother, Fenella, is posing as a widow at an English watering spot when she unexpectedly encounters her estranged husband. Fenella is hoydenish, wild and immature, yet charming.
  2. Justin H. McCarthy MP. Not content with the existing characters, author number two conjures up a young lawyer named, of all things, Clitheroe Jacynth. CJ is so enamored with Fenella that he proposes to her. She refuses.
  3. Eleanor Francis Trollope. Some bloke called Lord Castleton decides to “save” his friend CJ from his suffering by sharing the sordid details of Fenella’s life. The tea: she has been a flirt since birth. (Hard eyeroll.) She had an entanglement with a German count while her husband carried on with a woman, Lucille. They quarreled. Fenella left him. Society blames her, because men aren’t expected to be faithful, duh.
  4. Arthur Conan Doyle. Femme fatale Lucille shows up claiming that Fenella was with the Count again last week. Fenella encounters Frank talking to Lucille, gets angry and rushes off to CJ to beg him not to abandon her.
  5. Mary Crommelin. To further rile her husband, Fenella calls for the Count. He wants to duel.
  6. C. Phillips CJ offers to introduce Fenella to his respectable sister, hoping some of that respectability will rub off on her. The sister refuses. This chapter is wholly unnecessary.
  7. Rita Frank heads to Fenella’s room to slip a letter under her door. He sees the Count entering her boudoir. He sinks into a state of stupor. (Yeah, I dunno.) In the morning he decides to get away from it all and leaves the country. In his distraction, he doesn’t notice the newspaper headlines about the mysterious death of a foreign count.
  8. Joseph Hatton Stuck having to explain the nonsense in the last chapter, author eight declares that the Count entered Fenella’s room without permission. Immediately after retreating to his own room, Frank fell asleep and somnambulated back to F’s room. F was threatening to stab the Count if he didn’t leave, but before she could get around to it, her sleeping husband strangles him. Yep, he murdered a guy in his sleep. When the police come, Fenella takes the fall for Frank.
  9. Lovett Cameron The jury returns a verdict of justifiable homicide. To keep her bloodtaint off of his child, Frank gives little Ronny into CJ’s aunt’s care. Fenella seeks anonymity in the Channel Islands, but cannot escape her past. Frank randomly arrives in her hideaway.
  10. Bram Stoker Frank finally hears about the murder and believes that Fenella did it. He is glad, because at least she wasn’t cheating on him. Lord Castleton figures out that Frank is the real killer, but says nothing.
  11. Florence Marryat Lucille marries a buffoonish American (we’re all like that) and gets her revenge on Frank for loving Fenella more by kidnapping their child and taking him to the U.S. Yeah. She straight-up kidnaps him.
  12. Frank Danby Worst chapter so far. Believing that she is a murderer, not an adulterer, Frank rushes to forgive his wife. Fenella, who has withstood many hardships with great fortitude, upon hearing this good news suddenly becomes so weak that she falls into a swoon. The doctor says that Frank must bring her child to her. Or she will die. Or go mad.
  13. Edward Kennard Frank discovers that his son has been abducted and hires a detective to find him.
  14. Richard Dowling Frank goes to America in search of his boy.
  15. Hungerford Fenella sends CJ to America too. On the same errand.
  16. Arthur à Beckett Frank discovers that Lucille has sent Ronny off somewhere. Then he sleepwalks into her house somehow. Just cuz.
  17. Jean Middlemass Frank attacks Lucille. She gets her doctor friend to shut him away in a mad house.
  18. Clement Scott With no explanation of how they manage it, Lord Castleton and CJ spring Frank from the asylum and put him on a boat back to England. Somehow they also have Ronny. And Lucille is on board in police custody. Author 18 is whacky.
  19. Graves Fenella has a bad dream. Also, what does “Clo.” stand for? Clorence? Clothilde? Carlo? British for colonel?
  20. W. Lucy Shipwreck.
  21. Adeline Sargeant Obviously, Lord Castleton dies. It was kind of the other authors to include this redundant character who could easily be killed off. Ronny, CJ and Frank survive. Lucille is presumed dead. Gee, I wonder if she’s really dead?
  22. George Manville Fenn Her husband, not the American, some other guy, has escaped from prison and wants revenge for something. He tries to kill her.
  23. Tasma Frank is sick.
  24. Anstey Lucille re-reappears. Apparently, Frank saved her life while in a trance. This man is a very productive sleepwalker. She gets arrested for some past bank heist. Frank suddenly dies of a heart problem, leaving the way clear for CJ and Fenella.

Final thoughts: So very silly. It’s notable that when compared to other literary giants, Arthur Conan Doyle is not exceptional for stylistic brilliance, but when compared to this collection of lesser-knowns, his chapter is absolutely the best written. His is refreshingly direct. Far less florid.

Everything I Have to Say About Oscar Wilde

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Everything I Have Left to Say About Oscar Wilde

Ok, this won’t be everything I have yet to say about Oscar Wilde. His writing, his approach to life, his own tragic personal dramas, pierce the center of my being in a way that I cannot package into words and ship to the cold void of the internet. The Marianas Trench of my feelings for Wilde will not be plumbed, but we will break the surface. Piece by piece.

Poe and Hemmingway have their adherents, but Oscar Wilde has always been the literary icon for me. He is a tragic, flawed hero in the Greek style. Far from perfect, but exquisitely inspiring. I have been fascinated by him ever since I read The Importance of Being Earnest as a teenager. His wit, humor, defiance, and fashion choices move me.

Fairy Stories

His tales for children, including “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant” are so beautiful, poignant, and sad. Give them a read.

Lady Windermere’s Fan

How could he have become so good at play writing so quickly? This is only his third play. Lady Windermere’s Fan is a saucy takedown of the Angel in the House idea of Victorian femininity. Through a series of misunderstandings, a vociferously upright young wife must be rescued from ruin by a woman she scorned as immoral. Wilde skewers late Victorian prudishness by presenting a fallen woman who, while not entirely selfless, is capable of great sacrifice. She had good reasons for leaving her husband and becoming ruined in the first place, too.

The plot is a bit contrived. I am absolutely not a fan of testing a character’s morals by placing them in artificially complex situations that no one could be expected to navigate. However, I can overlook it in this case, because the ideas and style of the play are just lovely. I love that Mrs. Erlynne is a brazen courtesan who represents everything that good society cannot tolerate, yet she insinuates herself into good society with grace, cleverness and a healthy dose of self-interest.

Enjoy some quotes:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

I can resist anything except temptation.

Life is far too important a thing to ever talk seriously about.

There are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely-or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.

“How long could you love a woman who didn’t love you, Cecil?
A woman who didn’t love me? Oh, all my life!”

On now to the next play.

 

A Woman of No Importance

Yikes, this one is kind of bad. Sorry, Oscar. I’m shocked that he actually got it published and performed, considering the very obvious subtext of the plot. Lord Illingworth wants to give a handsome young man, Gerald, a position that he’s under-qualified for. Gerald’s mother is adamant that Gerald not go with Illingworth, because *dramatic music* Gerald is Illingworth’s son. So, you might be thinking that she wants to keep her son away from the immoral man who seduced her and abandoned her. That would be true. But. Also. She doesn’t want Illingworth to seduce his own son. Gross, Oscar. Why even write that?

I appreciate that Wilde stands up for the moral character of unwed mothers, but he doesn’t do it particularly well. His wit does not sparkle. The play is a continuous string of epigrams and paradoxes that become quite tedious.

Here’s a quote:

When good Americans die they go to Paris. And when bad Americans die they go to America.

 

An Ideal Husband

This play and The Importance of Being Earnest are Oscar Wilde’s best work. So clever and funny. An Ideal Husband centers on two couples and the scheming intriguer who would ruin them. Sir Robert Chiltern is a politician whose wife Gertrude, unaware of a sordid trick he pulled to launch his career, adores him as an ideal of honesty and rectitude. This pair takes themselves very seriously. Meanwhile, Chiltern’s sister, Mabel, and her beau, Lord Goring, are models of frivolity and facetiousness. Of course, dear Oscar shows that the seemingly foolish and superficial pair are much more forthright and realistic in their behavior and expectations than the couple that would like to be models of correct Victorian behavior.

I love this play. You should read it or watch one of the versions on youtube or maybe even pay to watch the 1999 film with Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett and some guy I don’t remember.

A quote:

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike. 

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The Importance of Being Earnest

Absolutely the most delightful, whimsical play ever written. The wittiest banter of all time. It is silly, satirical and somewhat romantic. I love this play so much. I don’t think I have read anything funnier. The interview between Lady Bracknell and Jack/Ernest Worthing is a particular highlight. I won’t say anything about the plot, because you should just read it. Or at the very least watch the charming 2002 film with Rupert Everett again, Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon and Dame Judy Dench at her absolute finest. I adore this movie. It really plays up the silliness and faux romanticism of the source material.

If you read only one thing by Oscar Wilde in your life, it should be Earnest. It is a sparkling, unique masterpiece. He was a genius.

Quotes:

I never travel without my diary, one should always have something sensational to read on the train.

Oh! I don’t think I would like to catch a sensible man. I shouldn’t know what to talk to him about.

The Canterville Ghost

I highly recommend this funny story about a brazen, new-money, American family who move into a musty old British manor house and fail to be impressed by the resident ghost. They trample on tradition in a delightful way. You should definitely, definitely, definitely read it.

The Fall of the House of Wilde

I wanted to know more about Oscar Wilde’s life story, but I never can find the time to read non-fiction. The Fall of the House of Wilde by Emer O’Sullivan was the only biography of Wilde available on Audible, so I listened to it. I learned a lot. I think this would be a very engaging read or listen for anyone interested in Irish History, LGBT history or any fan of biographies.

I came for Oscar Wilde’s life story, but O’Sullivan set out to place Oscar in the context of his revolutionary, intellectual, fiercely individualistic, self-destructive, Irish family. It is true that Oscar was not a green carnation blooming in a desert. His father, William, was a noted doctor and archeologist. His mother was a poet. Both were known for their wit as well as their interest in Irish history, folklore and politics. O’Sullivan’s thesis seems to be first that Oscar is a logical outgrowth of his sparkling family and upbringing, not an natural wonder, and secondly he laments that the Wilde family was wiped out of Irish history when Oscar’s trial for homosexuality made the Wilde name unmentionable. Yes, they deserve restoration in their place in Irish history, but must we be so hard on Oscar?

I do think he is a wonder. A green carnation that bloomed from fertile soil, true. But a unique flower, nonetheless.

Final Thoughts: I love Oscar Wilde with my whole heart, but with some reservation. The biographical details of his life would not stand up to modern scrutiny. I have both condemnation and forgiveness in my heart. Read or listen to The Fall of the House of Wilde if you want to know what I am referring to. I think it’s best to hear the entire story than my one paragraph summary.

When I contemplate Oscar Wilde’s life, I am filled with profound sadness for the moral failure of the culture that I inherited. This brilliant man was condemned for loving who he loved and imprisoned in inhumane conditions. He died of illness he contracted in prison. It horrifies me to think of everyone who has suffered like Oscar suffered, for not being straight, for having the audacity to be themselves. It makes me sick and sad. The only consolation is that his art remains to lift us up, to remind us of the beauty and silliness in this life.

Tragedy in the Woodlands

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The Woodlanders, Thomas Hardy, 1887

I adore this book. I know I roasted Thomas Hardy just a few days ago, but we are back in a good place with The Woodlanders. What an underrated gem of a novel.

Like many another Hardy novel, we begin with a man walking along a rural road. No shade. This is an excellent way to start a novel. That man is up to something. He is going to interact with our main characters. He will kickstart the plot. Importantly, he will traverse the landscape, providing reason for Hardy to describe the setting to us. Oh boy. What at setting. We have abandoned the moors for the woodlands. Squirrels! Wood pigeons! Larches! Foxes! Metaphors about the Teutonic antecedents of the characters! You know you want to read Hardy’s metaphors about trees, squirrels, broken hearts and Ginnungagap. Your really do.

In The Woodlanders, the man on the rural road is a barber. He has traveled from a city to purchase the hair of Marty South, whomst I love. The barber finds Marty hard at work crafting spar gads. Oh you don’t know what a spar gad is? Neither do I . It has something to with thatch.

Anyway, sweet, perfect Marty is making spar gads, secretly completing her father’s work so that they don’t lose his income while he is ill. Marty! The barber explains that the lady of the manor, Felice Charmond, noticed in church that Marty’s hair is the same rare color as hers and she wants it to adorn her own head. Marty surmises that the widow Charmond wants to allure some man with additional hair, but Marty wants to keep her own powers of allurement, because she is in love with Giles Winterborne.

Oof, you can tell from the name that he will have a sad fate. If he was born during such an inauspicious time of year, you know Thomas Hardy will plague him with bad luck and misery the way only Thomas Hardy can. He is part of a tragic love pentagram. Yes, I meant to write pentagram, not pentagon. It’s a more romantic name for a five-pointed shape.

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The five points are:

Marty—a lonely, hard-working, woodland lass.

Giles—a cider-maker and part-time harvest diety.

Felice—a rich widow with a past that doesn’t bear looking into.

Grace—a merchant’s daughter.

Edred—a devilish doctor who dabbles in metaphysics.

Marty loves Giles. Giles and Edred love Grace. Edred also loves Felice. Grace loves Giles, but she is not fully aware of her own feelings. Felice loves Edred. Nobody loves Marty. Except for me. I love you, darling. Down to the last spar gad your nimble fingers ever crafted.

Now, I will not tell you the entire plot. There isn’t much to it. The drama unfolds in the characters’ hearts. Their shifting feelings about each other constitute the most important “action” of the novel. And, oh, the relationships are so subtle and complex. The details Hardy provides are beautiful. Grace’s father loves her so much that he refuses to clean the smudge mark of her reading candle from the ceiling over her bed. Giles begins to lose his shot at genteel Grace when he awkwardly encounters her while standing in the middle of a public square under an apple tree sapling that he is trying to sell. Grace becomes aware of the intellectual new doctor in her village when she notices his fire changing colors due to his chemical experiments. Her maid informs her that she has sold her eventual cadaver to this doctor. “Kaleidoscopic dreams of the face of a weird alchemical surgeon, Grammer Oliver’s skeleton, and the face of Giles Winterborne, brought Grace Melbury to the morning of the next day.”

And the themes! They are not new for Hardy, but he does them so well. This man was strongly opposed to marriage without the possibility of divorce. Characters learn too late that they have married the wrong person and are doomed to a loveless and bleak existence, because Victorian mores will not allow them to escape the chafing bonds of matrimony or form meaningful attachment with someone whose companionship could provide true comfort in this pitiless world. Gah! It’s so bitter and tragic and true. I sob every time I read this book. Which has been a lot of times. Hardy also satirizes the Victorian tendency to value social status above character. True again, Hardy.

Of course, it is profoundly beautifully written. Open any page and you will find a sentence that makes you emit your soul from your body in a sigh of pure aesthetic pleasure. Like this one “The two trees that had creaked all the winter left off creaking, the whir of the night-jar, however, forming a very satisfactory continuation of uncanny music from that quarter.”  Uncanny woodland music! Yes, please!

I think what I love most about this book is the unexpected compassion the characters exhibit towards each other in tense situations. Women who might look upon each other as rivals show care and tenderness towards each other. I don’t find this unrealistic. I think there are plenty of people out there who still exhibit concern for another’s feelings even when that person’s interest runs contrary to their own in a deeply personal and emotional matter. It happens.

I almost left out the Best Scene. Sweet, perfect Marty is holding saplings upright for Giles to plant. I might cry. It is already so beautiful. Marty helps him in his humble work, which lofty Grace cannot do. So, she understands Giles and knows his true value better than Grace can. While they are planting, Marty observes:

“How they sigh directly we put ‘em upright, though while they are lying down they don’t sigh at all,” said Marty.

“Do they?” said Giles. “I’ve never noticed it.” (And you never noticed Marty either, you unlucky fool.)

She erected one of the young pines into its hole, and held up her finger; the soft musical breath instantly setting in, which was not to cease night or day till the grown trees should be felled—probably long after the two planters should be felled themselves.

Gah! Marty South forever!

You might like The Woodlanders if:

  • you enjoy a woodland setting
  • you enjoy things that are good

You might not like The Woodlanders if:

  • you are not in the mood to fling yourself on your sofa and sob

Final thoughts: I love it! I don’t think I have ever used this many exclamation points in a post.

Well, This Is Embarrassing

Well, This Is Embarrassing

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The Well-beloved, Thomas Hardy, 1892

I don’t actually want to talk about this novel. I am embarrassed for Thomas Hardy. This one is so bad. Yikes. Writing a description of the plot is going to hurt. But my author-soulmate wrote this poorly conceived clunker and it would be disingenuous to skip it.

Listen to this nonsense. Jocelyn Pierston is a sculptor. He considers himself a man afflicted by an inconvenient malady: his affection flits from woman to woman in an—according to him—uncontrollable and regrettable manner. Pierston blames his commitment-phobia on his artistic temperament. Here is a blurry, real-time picture of my face as I type these words.

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Pierston’s quest for the ideal female form to immortalize in stone causes his romantic feeling to flee capriciously on to another object after he has sworn fidelity and made who knows what other promises to some poor lass. I know what you are thinking. “Barf, surely Thomas Hardy didn’t think anyone would be interested in the life story of this idiot.” I guess he did though. I can’t explain it. We know he wrote some of the most compelling characters of the entire Victorian Era. Tess! Bathsheba! Gabriel! And then he whipped out this stupendously uninteresting tale.

Pierston thinks of the women he crushes on as embodiments of his ideal “well-beloved” woman and blames this entity, the Well-beloved, for refusing to stay put in one female frame. Sigh.

I’m getting ahead of myself. It gets so much worse. Pierston returns from London to his home town on the Isle of Portland, an insular island that is connected to England by a spit that is submerged during hightide. He sees a friend of his youth, Avice. Not a typo. She is Avice, not Alice. She impulsively kisses him as she did when they were children. This social gaffe—they are much too old for casual kissing—leads to a renewed acquaintanceship and an engagement.

Avice seems cool. She recites poetry publicly and shows other signs of intellect. But, it would be too simple for Pierston to marry his hometown honey. A twist of fate leads him to spend a rainy afternoon in the company of a dusky maiden named Marcia. Of course, his well-beloved departs from Avice and enters Marcia. Ugh. Such a gross concept, Thomas Hardy. Pierston wants to place the blame for his endless string of compromising dalliances on an outside entity. No, sweetie. It’s not “the well-beloved” that is tormenting you. You need to stop obsessing over momentary attraction and start learning to form friendships with women. I’ll say it again: yikes.

Anyway, he ditches Avice and plans to marry Marcia. However, Marcia is proud and imperious and maybe already in love with a different guy. Their attraction doesn’t last long enough for them to follow through on the marriage.

Many years and many well-beloveds later, Pierston returns to the island and discovers that poor Avice has died. She married another, poorer islander, had a sad life, and died young. Pierston is stricken with remorse. He should have stuck by her! She was the one he truly loved all along! That’s what he tells himself, anyway. I can’t bring myself to give a single frog about this man’s emotions.

Anyway, he encounters the spitting image of the Avice he was once engaged to in the form of her daughter. He insists on calling her Avice as well. We’ll call her Avice II. So, this asshole falls in love with the daughter. That’s what he tells himself. He is incapable of love. Anyway, he wants to marry her, mostly to make up for the wrong he did her mother. At this point he is forty and she is about twenty. Avice II is a more worldly, but less cultured version of her mother, whom she closely resembles, probably because everyone on the island is related…so they all look the same? That is Hardy’s explanation. Anyway, it turns out that Avice II is already pregnant with another man’s child so Pierston helps them marry. Cuz he’s such a swell guy. Haha, no. Out of guilt.

Twenty years later…do you know what’s coming? What could have transpired in twenty years? The birth and bringing up of a third Avice. That’s right, he meets and gets engaged to a third Avice. The granddaughter. I am not making this up. What a truly wretched plot. Sixty-year old Pierston wants to marry the granddaughter of the woman he should have married forty years earlier. Yikes! Avice II pushes for the marriage, because she is ill and wants to know, before she dies, that her daughter will be provided for by a rich husband.

Pierston can sense that the youngest Avice is only going along with the marriage out of a sense of maternal duty. She does not want to marry this sixty-year-old stranger. Pierston knows this, and he feels bad, but not bad enough to call off the wedding. Fortunately, on the eve of the ceremony, another twist of fate intervenes and Avice III runs off with her young beau. It turns out that her lover is Marcia’s stepson. Marcia returns to Pierston’s life. She is no longer an ideal beauty to his eye, but he’s a miserable, lonely old man. So, he marries her.

If there is one redeeming element of The Well-beloved it is that Pierston does not marry either the daughter or granddaughter. Yikes. But that is small comfort. What a truly stupid concept for a novel. Cringe-worthy. If we delved deeper into the details of this text you would only be more annoyed.

Final thoughts. What was he thinking? Such piffle.

A Collection of Classic Creepy Tales

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Hello, spookies. When the first cool breeze of September rustled my hair, I felt the urge to read creepy stories. So, I purchased this ebook of 50 short horror pieces, called 50 Masterpieces of Occult and Supernatural Fiction . It costs only two dollars, so if you too are in the mood for ghosts, werewolves, vampires and haints, go for it. Considering that I have filtered out the duds for you, this would be a very low risk investment. Many of these are worth your time. A few are truly excellent. I have been telling everyone if you only read one, read The Great God Pan. It is so good. So good.

  • “The Corner Shop” by Cynthia Asquith
    • A traditional, cozy ghost story. More chilling than horrifying. Has a satisfying ending.
  • “Caterpillars” by E. F. Benson
    • Ghost caterpillars. Nuff said.
  • “The Middle Toe of the Right Foot” by Ambrose Bierce
    • A cleverly constructed spooky mystery. You already know that Ambrose Bierce can write a good story. This is one of his better ones.
  • “Scoured Silk” Marjorie Bowen
    • This one really got to me. If you are triggered by domestic abuse, skip it. It’s haunting.
  • “The Sweeper by A. M. Burrage
    • Please read this so you can tell me what the hell is going on. What? I don’t get it. I need a second opinion. Yes, your opinion. Please. It’s only a few pages long. Help me out.
  • “The Screaming Skull” F. Marion Crawford
    • So good. Definitely the second-best story in this anthology. I love a monologue and this one is primo. Based on a Dorsetshire folktale, this is a lovable story, but very spooky.

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  • “The Sumach” by Ulric Daubeny
    • I LOVE IT. Usually, I do not approve of creepy trees, because trees are the best. They do so much for us. Trees aren’t trying to hurt us. But this story is so charming that I forgive the creepy tree. This tale evokes the fear that the lady of the house can be seduced away from her duties…by a spooky tree. I love it. It is true that if you leave us alone to think our thinky thoughts, we will get up to some dangerous, patriarchy destroying stuff. Watch out. Don’t leave your wife alone with the trees. She is gonna do weird stuff…with trees. Also, the explanation of why the tree is spooky powerful is very good. Great story.
  • The Signal-Man” by Charles Dickens
    • A bit predictable, but well-written. I’m not mad that I read it.
  • “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B Edwards
    • Very nice little ghost story. I enjoyed it.
  • “The Beast with Five Fingers” by W. F. Harvey
    • Such a weird, quirky tale of a vicious, disembodied hand. If you can wade through some odd exposition and enjoy an odd narrative style, you will dig this one.
  • “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • Hawthorne’s supernatural takedown of the Puritan pretense of morality. Basically, what George Eliot was going for with Bulstrode’s character in Middlemarch, but mercifully hundreds of pages shorter and with Satan worship. So much more fun that way.
  • “Oh, Whistle and I’ll come to you, My Lad” and “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas” by M. R. James
    • The premises of these stories are great, but James’ writing is rather dry. Still, they aren’t bad.

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  • “The Great God Pan” by Arthur Machen
    • This story is the reason for this whole post. If you like horror at all, you need to read this. So good. We begin with a creepy surgeon wanting to perform a procedure on a young woman that will “lift the veil” and allow her to see the spirit world. As you can imagine, things go horribly wrong. Machen is a good writer. The settings and characterization are compelling. I found the story so gripping and suspenseful that I read it entirely in html in one day and was shocked to discover that is a 100-page novella, not the 30-page short story I thought I had just whizzed through. It’s good, y’all. If you need any further recommendations: Stephen King and Oscar Wilde both admire it. And those are our highest authorities when it comes to horror and style respectively.
  • “When I Was Dead” by Vincent O’Sullivan
    • A wry, cynical monologue. Quite funny and dark.
  • “The Inn” Guy Preston
    • Some very creepy and unnatural things happen to a man at an inn. Very inventive story.
  • “Gabriel-Ernest” and “The Open Window” by Saki
    • The first is a twisted take on a werewolf story. The second is a very sarcastic and satirical little tale. Both are worth reading.

Happy haunting, dear ones.

Tess! Probably the Best Novel Ever Written

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Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy, 1891

CW: sexual assault

Stop! Go read Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Or reread it if it has been a few years since your last visit to Marlott, Tantridge, Flintcomb Ash and Talbothays. You don’t need to be here. You need to be reading Tess. This book is a masterpiece. A sad, frustrating, beautiful masterpiece that will rip your heart out. I just finished rereading it and I am feeling very forlorn, but the journey was aesthetically enriching and spiritually fulfilling. When I read a particularly beautiful phrase that I want to remember and return to, I dogear the page. If you just cringed, get over it; they are my books and I can crease the pages if I want to. Tess is probably my most dogeared book. Go read it. Please.

Ok, now that we have all read Tess, let us proceed to discuss its splendor. What makes this book so great?

Style Of course, the paramount reason for loving Thomas Hardy is simply his skill as a writer. He turns a beautiful phrase. Even his lesser works have exquisite moments for the lover of a great sentence. In Tess, though, you can feel that he is more emotionally invested in the characters and the message. His skill is put to its highest use. Pretty much. I do like Far from the Madding Crowd more than Tess, but not necessarily because I think it is a better book. Simply a matter of preference. I will say, that if there is any flaw in the novel, it is that the style is not quite consistent. The segment when Angel Clare visits his parents seems like it came from a different book. But we will forgive Hardy this tiny failing, because as a whole, the novel is divine. If you have already read the book (and you have, right, or you would have stopped reading this post) you can open to a random page and read a random sentence and just marvel at how lovely it is and how perfectly it propels the reader toward Hardy’s ultimate vision.

Mood Big mood in this one. Later in life Hardy’s cynicism, atheism and bitterness at the injustice of the world took center stage in his writing. You could argue that Jude the Obscure is the more bitter and cynical text and you might be right. However, as much as I love Jude, Hardy’s tough kernel of existential despair is woven into the narrative, the characters and the plot more effectively in Tess. From the beginning he builds the feeling that Tess did not ask for or call the tragedies of her life down upon herself. For example, this description her childhood “If the heads of the Durbeyfield household chose to sail into difficulty, disaster, starvation, disease, degradation, death, thither were these half-dozen little captives under hatches compelled to sail with them—six hapless creatures, who had never been asked if they wished for life on any terms, much less if they wished for it on such hard conditions as were involved in being of the shiftless house of Durbeyfield.” Tess’ experiences are so harsh that she comes to “hear a penal sentence in the fiat, ‘You shall be born.’” Like I said, big mood.

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Themes There are a number working together, including my favorite Brit Lit theme: paganism versus Christianity. He introduces Tess performing a May Day dance. Profligate Angel sees the women of Marlott dancing and the minister’s son cannot resist the chance to whirl about with the maidens. Later, denied the opportunity to baptize her bastard child, Tess wakes her little mystic siblings from their slumber and performs a ritual more sacred, because it is not sanctified by any judgmental, patriarchal church. That moment makes me so proud of her. Mystic, precious Tess. I am also proud of her when she writes that letter to Angel asking him “Oh why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do not deserve it!” Of course you don’t, you pure and perfect soul! And when she murders Alec. I know, blee blah, murder is wrong. But, he’s just a character, not a real guy. He had it coming, and I am proud of her for doing it. Fight me. There are a lot of women in Victorian novels who should have murdered evil, controlling men who they couldn’t escape from, but their authors weren’t bold enough. Hardy and Tess are bold enough and I love them for it. I have strayed away from the point of this paragraph, which is paganism. When Tess and Angel make their sweet, babes-in-the-woods-style, attempt to flee from the law and end up sleeping on a slab at Stonehenge. . .is that not the best, most romantic place for those two characters to end up? It is. Perfection. If I had a time machine, I would go hug Thomas Hardy for providing me this and other moments of pure artistic pleasure.

The original title was Tess of the D’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman and I wish publishers would print the entire title. At this point in his career Hardy could find publishers willing to print his blatant attacks on Victorian sexual mores. He could even call a fallen woman “pure” right in the title. This man was doing the work of divorcing women’s spiritual value from their so-called sexual purity. In the 19th century! What a mensch.

When Alec reappears in Tess’s life and starts imploring her not to “tempt” him, as if her very existence is a sin, Hardy writes that “there was revived in her the wretched sentiment that had come to her often before, that in inhabiting the fleshy tabernacle with which Nature had endowed her, she was somehow doing something wrong.” Did you think you would hear an anti-body/slut-shaming PSA from a Victorian man? I never expected such a thing, but here you have it. Hardy makes it clear that Tess is just out in these fields trying to survive when along come these men accusing her of sin just for inhabiting the body and face she happened to be born into. You didn’t do anything wrong Tess! You never did one wrong thing.

Consent Since Tess was first published readers have questioned whether the sexual encounter between Alec and Tess was consensual. It is a bit confounding. In my opinion most of the textual evidence points to rape. However, I am not sure how to square that with the smaller amount of contrary evidence. Also, Thomas Hardy wrote in a letter to a friend that “it was a seduction, pure and simple.” He may have seen it as consensual, but by 2019 standards, it certainly was not. Tess denied consent for his sexual advances on many precious occasions, and there is no true consent between an employer and the employee who very much depends on him for her livelihood and the survival of her family. Anyway, even if she had enthusiastically consented, Angel Clare would still by hypocritical trash for treating her like tainted goods. I hate him so much. Let’s talk about that.

Angel Fucking Clare Least favorite literary character, no contest. I am so angry at this man. I know, there are far more evil and destructive characters in the canon, but it is in the name: Angel was supposed to be better. His fascination with Tess’s country maidenhood, her supposed virginity, her sexual purity is repulsive. When she reveals her past, he says she is not the same person that he married. To him, her virginity is her identity. What a piece of absolute trash this man is. What kind of bullshit, worthless love could be shaken by her story? Obviously, she is the same person, you giant douche. Oh, I get so mad. I want to push him down a long, steep hill studded with rocks and cow plops. I really love Thomas Hardy, though, for shaping Angel’s past to illustrate what a cruel hypocrite he is for deserting Tess. Angel is no virgin. More importantly he has some objection to the teachings of the Anglican church (I can’t be bothered with figuring out/remembering what he objects to, because I hate him, and he is not worth my time) that prevent him from becoming ordained. When it comes to the Church, he is capable of rejecting conventional wisdom to the detriment of his prospects. But, when it comes to trivia like Tess’s sexual history, he can’t see past his bullshit social conditioning. Angel Clare is the worst. Also, he clearly didn’t love her for her own dear self, because he never bothered to learn about her family. If he had done so, he would have known better than to abandon her to share their ill-fortune. I hate him so much.

Hardy tries to redeem Angel at the end of the story, which is a mistake, in my opinion. He should have just killed that asshole off. I do appreciate that Angel stays by Tess even though she is a murderer, but I cannot stomach the thought of him marrying Tess’s little sister. He does not deserve Tess. He does not deserve an approximation of Tess. You might be thinking that we cannot know that Liza-Lu and Angel end up together, but I have read enough Hardy novels to know that marrying a man to the younger sister of the woman he first loved is absolutely something he would do. Yuck.

Pastoral Perfection Hardy stands out among Victorian authors because he wrote about country living from experience. His descriptions of life on a rural farm have an authenticity that George Eliot never approached. The atmosphere in Tess and the setting . . . absolute perfection. Just read this description of Tess trying to get closer to Angel’s harp playing: She went stealthily as a cat through this profusion of growth, gathering cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that were underfoot, staining her hands with thistle-milk and slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked arms sticky blights, which, though snow-white on the apple-tree trunks, made madder stains on her skin; thus she drew quite near to Clare, still unobserved by him. Ah! You should be crying. From pure artistic pleasure. That is the most perfect sentence. I love the snails beneath your feet, Tess. I do. And the cuckoo-spittle on your skirts. Angel never deserved you. I need to stop. This story is so sad. Tess! Why did you have to do this to my emotions, Thomas Hardy?

Final thoughts: It’s a masterpiece. Obviously. Read it. I am still crying. Because of Tess. And because of the cuckoo-spittle.

A Perilous Look at Dorian Gray

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The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 1890

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.

Those lines from the preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray resonate with me right now. My thoughts on this book are so jumbled and difficult to articulate, which is appropriate. I suppose. Oscar Wilde wants us to be baffled by the paradoxical nature of his writing. I guess I will just start spewing some thoughts at you. . .as if that’s any different from what I normally do.

There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

  • This too is from the preface. It reminds me greatly of Mark Twain’s preface to Huck Finn in which “persons attempting to find a moral [. . .] will be banished.” Both authors command their readers not to look for morals, which is the height of irony given that these books are more explicitly about morality than other Victorian classics. And Victorian novels are generally very concerned with morality. I don’t know who Twain and Wilde thought they were fooling with these “don’t look at the man behind the curtain” exhortations. If you write a book about a character’s ethical rise or fall, be prepared for readers to notice that.
  • Yet, I personally value the book almost exclusively for Oscar’s (we are on a first-name basis) beautiful writing. I don’t care about Dorian all that much. I’m much more interested in the butterflies in Basil Hallward’s garden, because they are so beautifully described. Or the bees. Listen to this: “The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive.” That sentence is so perfect, I want to live inside it. I want to rub my face on it, lovingly. Ok, I just did. Sometimes I’m overcome with affection for a snippet of writing and feel an urge to press the page to my face as if it were a cute kitty.
  • These overwhelmingly beautiful descriptions of sensual experiences persist throughout the novel and they are rather persuasive arguments in favor of the aesthete lifestyle that Oscar himself symbolized. However, the plot overtly condemns a life of pure artistic pleasure. Dorian’s Hedonism destroys many lives, including his own. What a tragic foreshadowing of Oscar’s early death, which was arguably caused by his own unwise decisions. I don’t exactly see it that way, but some of his biographers do. I think I will wait until another post to discuss my deep existential sadness about Oscar Wilde’s life story.

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I have to mention that this is the first time in this literary journey that I have encountered a male character who is anxious about maintaining his youth and beauty. Generally, in literature, men don’t worry about that, because they have other ways of proving their value to the world. Other ways of obtaining their ends. It’s not insignificant that when the male gaze turns on another male, he starts to feel the same anxieties that plague female characters throughout literature.

I worry about the implications of this book as a work of gay literature. Lord Henry’s influence leads to Dorian’s complete moral degradation. The idea of an older man corrupting a beautiful youth is a depiction of homosexual love that makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Thank goodness for the counterpoint of Basil’s more enriching love. Still. . .look what happens to Basil. Also, I can’t help but wonder how much Oscar internalized the Victorian attitude toward homosexuality. In many ways, he was an outspoken advocate for the beauty of homosexual love. Yet, Dorian Gray can be interpreted as belying that message. I don’t like to interpret it that way, because I hate to think that Oscar Wilde felt any shame about his gayness, but the possibility of that interpretation is difficult to miss. Of course, it wouldn’t be Oscar Wilde’s life or literature if it wasn’t paradoxical.

On a very different note, this is an excellent horror novel. I don’t know if I have said that about any other book on this blog. Have I? Oh, yeah. Jekyll and Hyde of course. Anyway, my point is that excellent horror novels are rare in the cannon. So, hooray for Dorian Gray. Good job, Oscar.

Final Thoughts: There is so much more that can be said about this book, but others have said it. Really, you should just read it or reread it and think your own thinky thoughts about it. It is a masterpiece.

Retro-Futuristic Feminist Nonsense!

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Anno Domini 2000, or, Woman’s Destiny, Julius Vogel, 1889

The 8th Premier of New Zealand wrote a feminist science fiction novel. I read it, so you don’t have to. You are welcome. Get ready to enter the wild and wacky world of Julius Vogel’s imagining.

It is the year 2000. The slow, but steady grind of progress has transformed society. Everyone realizes that women are smarter than men. Most world leaders are women. The leaders of the Commonwealth decided that “every human being was entitled to a position of the world’s good things” and enacted Universal Basic Income. Luxury is the new normal. The United Britain is the most powerful empire on the globe. The colonies are wealthier than Mother England. Together, England and her colonies are more powerful than the rest of the world combined.

He started off well, but swung hard into imperialist propaganda, huh?

Vogel very sweetly predicted that in the year 2000, transportation technology would be so advanced that the Emperor of United Britain could “go from one end to the other of his dominions in 12 days.” Cute.

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That’s the gist of the setup. Now he launches into the story and oh, boy; it is the silliest story. Vogel’s vision of female advancement does not extend beyond lifting them into positions of power. Once so elevated, they behave exactly like stereotypical heroines in bad Victorian novels. The heroine at hand is Hilda Fitzherbert who is Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs for the British Empire. Also, she is 22 and has “a face artistically perfect.” Barf. The trend of very young political leaders in sci-fi/fantasy is so obviously based on the assumption that people must be young and hot to be interesting. As if people, especially women, stop developing mentally or experiencing life-altering events after 27. Why does she have to be young and “perfect” looking? Why? Oh, because this is a goddamn love story. Sure, the love story has vast geo-political ramifications, but it’s a love story. Geez. But still, people finding love in their 90s is still romantic. She didn’t have to be 22, Julius.

We begin with a conversation between the Under Secretary and the Assistant Under Secretary. What do they discuss? Important home affairs? Nope. A man. A man who is in love with Hilda. She’s not interested in him and he’s an ass; so he proceeds to try to ruin her political career out of spite. Yep. That’s the plot of the novel. Hilda versus the scorned lover. How disappointing that Vogel couldn’t imagine Hilda versus the famine. Hilda versus the rise of fascism. Hilda versus anything other than a goddamn man who is mad because she won’t bang him.

Next Hilda consults the Prime Minister of Britain. . .about this goddamn man. By the way, the Prime Minister is also beautiful even though she has the audacity to be 40. Yikes. Also, Hilda calls her “dear mamma” because they are such close friends. Yikes again. So unprofessional, Hilda.

I could go on at length about the many problems with the book, but it would get repetitive and honestly, it’s not worth our time. So, I will just let you know that

  • the Emperor of England is considering whether to marry the daughter of the President of the United States of America as part of a political deal. Hi, we are the United States? Have you met us? That is literally not how we negotiate international politics. Also, he doesn’t want to marry her, because she has red hair. I’m serious.
  • He refuses to marry her, so the U.S. invades Canada out of spite. Really. This gives Britain an excuse to take back their lost colony, which Vogel describes as “weak as water compared to the parent country they abandoned.” He loves the British Empire so much that he is still sad, more than a hundred years later, about that war they lost. Boohoo. It takes the Empire about half a day to retake their former territory “a triumph which amply redeemed the humiliation of centuries back.” Oh, and the 4th of July is abolished. That is some next level imperial fervor, dude. Chill.
  • Hilda’s love life has caused a world war, but Britain triumphs. Her scorned lover dies. She marries the Emperor of course, because why not?

Final Thoughts: This book is very silly nonsense. It’s sweet that Julius Vogel was so committed to women’s rights that he wrote an entire novel to promote the cause, but he should have stuck to politics. And all that imperialist pride. . .what the hell, Julius?