I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Monday, 29 October 2012

Titled classes' vade mecum

For various self-serving reasons I haven’t read a serious book for ages. Or does Eyeless in Gaza count? Might there be a case for re-editing the longer Huxley novels and transferring the lengthy essays that bulk out the chapters to the back of the book? I only arsked.

More typically I’ve infuriated myself by re-reading a couple of Wimseys: The Nine Tailors and Busman’s Honeymoon. I’m always reminded of a nurse who worked at the same hospital as VR and who had just discovered Lord Peter; couldn’t get enough him. Then she came across a para where Bunter (Lord Peter’s “man”) is required to shave his boss and that was the end of that.

Dorothy Sayers mines a very rich vein of snobbism which curdles my left-wing blood and yet fascinates me as a matter of public record. In Nine Tailors Wimsey crashes his car and is invited to stay the night with the local vicar; Bunter is shipped off to the kitchen with the housemaids. The same Bunter who saved Wimsey’s life during WWI.

Even more astonishing is the way country folk (Chimney sweeps, farm labourers, shopkeepers, sextons) all slip quite easily into addressing Wimsey as My Lord or referring to him as Lord Peter. Without tuition.

Perhaps the most unbearable passage occurs when Wimsey takes an ugly, downtrodden woman back to his flat (119A Piccadilly, in London’s West End), plays her Bach (perhaps Scarlatti) on the piano and says it would be better on a harpsichord. Exposes her to this heavenly environment, then drops her back into the plot.

So, why do I re-read Sayers? One reason is I’ve now caught up with all the quotations (in French) and the musical references that were beyond me in my youth. It takes a snob to recognise a snob.

6 comments:

Relucent Reader said...

Eyeless in Gaza DOES count. I enjoy Huxley, though I must confess to enjoying Grey Eminence and The Devils Of Loudon more. There was a resurgence in publishing his works in the 70's here, and that is where I picked him up, other than the "hafta read in school" Brave New World.I like an occasional essay buried in a novel: Neal Stephenson does the same. In the middle of his Cryptonomicon there is a 3 page essay on the proper way to eat Captain Crunch cereal.I would have no problem with them being placed in the back of the book.

I enjoyed several Lord Peter novels (most notably "Nine Tailors")years ago. The bell ringing was fascinating, will have to revisit it. When reading them years ago, I figured all the "yes m'lord" stuff was part and parcel of life then.

Avus said...

I was given "The Nine Tailors" by my Godmother when I was about 15 and much involved in ringing the bells at Mereworth church (the couple of pubescent village girls who were also learning to "campanologe" were an added attraction). DLS had obviously done her homework on bellringing.

Julia said...

Of all the Lord Peter novels, Gaudy Night ranks as my favorite (more Harriet, and the best snippets of Peter showing through). Have you read it lately?

Roderick Robinson said...

RR: Haven't read Grey Eminence. Read The Devils quite recently and was rather worried by the relish AH showed in describing the torturing and burnings.

As to the interstitial essays there is one problem. He's quite a good plotter, enough to keep you turning the pages, and these great wodges can be annoying in that sense.

Re. DLS, were all those grumbling bucolic types so well clued up on modes of address? The stories weren't set in feudal times, rather the twenties and thirties when much of the population had good reason to resent the aristocracy? Mind you I'm trying hard not to be naive. The trappings of aristocracy were what sold the books.

Avus: Your experiences may allow you a more carnal view of bellringing. I merely read the book. And although NT's put together with great skill, I turned over the last page with some relief. My reaction was similar to that of the person who reviewed Watership Down: "it told me more about rabbits than I cared to know."

Julia: You've triggered a post which I am about to start when I finish this comment. I read Gaudy Nights in my childhood and was sufficiently critical to notice that PW was regularly manipulated ("another little tricky task for the Foreign Office") in a blatant way to get him on and off the stage and leave the spotlight firmly on Harriet. May I infer from what you say here that you were perhaps more of an enthusiast for her than him? I take it you'll have read all the contemporary views that PW was a perfected view of manhood as DLS saw things, and that Harriett was an idealised form of herself. Alas, DLS was ugly, had a very unsatisfactory love life and eventually discovered God.

Julia said...

You nailed it in one - Peter always seemed more of a stage prop than a real person, which is why I preferred Harriet as a character. Plus Gaudy Night's snapshot of women's education in its earlier days, not to mention the golden views of Oxford were both pretty irresistible. (It's hard to over estimate the glorification of Oxbridge in English departments across the US South.)

Roderick Robinson said...

Julia: This is why Blogger was invented. I post a piece. You respond but, sort of, tangentially. I take a not-very-hard-guess at something you have implied. You confirm my guess, come up with an against-the-grain detail which charms me and then - gloriously - end with an utterance that deserves setting to music. Bravissimo. The PP continues to expand her territory.