Thursday, November 28, 2013

the regiment of ants

Bengala by Mary Theresa Vidal (1860)

The characters in the early parts of this book like to visit each other's houses and eat. They are always together. "A long discussion soon arose about shrubs and plants, which continued till they were summoned to luncheon." I felt such a longing for that pointlessly friendful existence, steady denseness and every moment filled, Vidal noticing that the discussion went on till they were summoned to another activity which would also have consumed them completely for another stretch of time, the author leaving no gaps in the chronology and elsewhere tracking the behaviour of each group, though some characters do vanish eventually without any explanation; mainly children.

The discussion was stopped by a summons from Mrs. Lang for all the ladies who wished to help in the custards. Mr. Fitz insisted that he should be very useful in beating up eggs, and made them laugh by tying on one of the little girls' pinafores and tucking up his sleeves. All went to the store but Isabel.

They explain themselves through their food. "Mr. Lang was ruffled, and found fault with the coffee and the toast." That null serenity could have lasted forever, for me; and if the rest of the book had consisted of people in this small middle-class bushland community coming around for coffee and toast, mutton, pumpkin pudding, custard, "biscuits and grapes, bread and butter, colonial wine, and lemon syrup" then it would have approximated my ideas about Der Nachsommer, by Adalbert Stifter, a book I haven't read, but which I imagine as a long period of static, sunny and finely-detailed peace and a self-hermiting. If Vidal could have written nothing but sentences like this for three hundred pages then I would have called her the greatest colonial author I had ever read:

He put his arm on Isabel's shoulder as he spoke, and so, talking and laughing, they all turned into the garden, where they strolled about it in a leisurely way; now plucking a grape or a bud -- now stopping to watch the regiment of ants, which in spite of gunpowder and tobacco and all the various war waged against them, persisted in destroying the gravel paths.

If absolutely nothing more consequential than that had happened then I would have been full of respect whenever I thought about her stubborn or thick adherence to minute occurrences (the kind that create barely more than a bubbling motion, which would eventually, by accumulation, seem to be full of subdued terror, or not terror but repressed meaning; the meaning would seem repressed because it would never be stated).

I wanted to reach the last page still waiting for an event to make a violent impression and stick up like the nail that gets hammered down, but instead I would be astounded when I found Mrs Lang talking about custard. "'Pray, Mr. Lang, don't talk about custards; I dare say Mrs. Vesey is not very much interested in custards,' said Mrs. Lang."

I would have been baffled and suspended on such an intensity of impenetrable lightness. It would have been a triumph for her, who died in 1873. "I want to write that book," I think, "that's the only way it will ever exist," even though I know that the action of creating the book would also be the action of removing the ignorance or innocence that I would need before I could start to read it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

those who really cannot quite understand as they look round them

Tales for the Bush by Mary Theresa Vidal (1845)

If you were going to be an early Australian novelist and a woman and you were born outside Australia, then a good thing you could do was attach yourself to a religious man, because Caroline Leakey's sister's husband was a Reverend, and Ada Cambridge was married to a Reverend, and so was Mary Theresa Vidal, all of them starting with religious books and growing into less-religious ones: Ada Cambridge writing her hymns, Leakey writing her poems, and Vidal writing Tales from the Bush which considers itself a sermon or series of sermons and sees the reader or congregation leaving the room when it has finished one of its stories.

One day when he was observing how much more comfortable and tidy every thing was about them than in the other cottages, and how much more leisure they seemed to have; Anne colored up and said “Ah sir, it is you, next to God and my poor mother, we've to thank. It is all owing to keeping the Sabbath day.”

Readers go and do likewise.

The short stories begin and end with poems, too, like songs: you sing as you go out and the lesson adheres like that. (Not all of them begin and end with poems but some of them begin with poems but don't end with poems and other ones end with poems and don't begin with poems but the idea of poems or, in other words, silent songs, coming at the opening and shutting of a thing or address, is there.)

You could look at the book as a parasite vine of the new young colony erecting itself up the trellis of ideas that have been established elsewhere: it take its points of view from sermons, it cannibalises the Bible to make sense of a bleakly-ended story called The Little Cousins. "To those who really cannot quite understand as they look round them, why we so often see the good suffer and evil prosper, I would say, read the 73rd Psalm." One cousin is good and the other is indifferent, and the indifferent one has ended the story warm and rich and the good cousin has ended the story crippled, orphaned, living in a Sydney slum, and "poor, with scarcely sufficient to support her, though she worked hard all day, often in pain from her leg and otherwise broken in health."

In one story, therefore, the person who does the right thing receives a "more comfortable and tidy" life than the unrighteous people who live around them, whereas in the other story it is the other way around, and the same uncertainty characterises the rest of the stories in the book, characters either failing or succeeding in a material sense more or less independently of how righteous or unrighteous they are which might well leave the reader with a feeling of vertigo and unmooring or, in short, horror, for if Kitty in Cousins is destined to suffer because she is righteous and her cousin Jane unrighteous then why does Anne in the earlier story not also suffer, or why does Kitty not live a more comfortable and tidy life than Jane?

It is like the short story Podolo by L.P. Hartley in which one character follows the kitten onto the island and wants to die at the end while the other character falls asleep on a boat and goes home. Hartley never explains why the kitten-character should have attached herself so persistently like that to the kitten: she doesn't have a history with pets; the other character might as well have attached himself to the kitten instead and it would have made exactly as much sense. The author leaves you a gap in his explanations where you can intuit an unstated mesmerism. The religious story and the horror story are both haunted. (The force that haunts the religious story does not appear to be God.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

of conscious art

One more post on Watkin Tench from me, at least one more because I know that Robert Hughes, who must have read or reread Tench for The Fatal Shore, called him "An eye that noticed everything" with "a young man’s verve, a sly wit, an elegant prose style," and Tench's posthumous editor L.F. Fitzhardinge wrote in 1979, "Less detailed than Collins, less matter-of-fact than Phillip or White, Tench is the first man to mould Australian experience into a work of conscious art," but, putting aside the accuracy of that statement, it's the consciousness of his art sometimes that troubles me, or makes me feel betrayed, and why betrayed?

Betrayed because of this sentence: "He was a man of middle age, with an open cheerful countenance, marked with the small pox, and distinguished by a nose of uncommon magnitude and dignity." (Emphasis mine: from A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson.)

The nose cuteness exists primarily in the word "uncommon;" take away that word and it is almost gone although it would leave some of itself behind in the words "magnitude and dignity." "Uncommon" makes it opaque. Why do I not like the nose cuteness? Because it betrays itself: because it puts a magic-making word ("uncommon," exceptional, magical) in a miniaturised or disrespected position where it is funny. It makes fun of the quality that it is pretending to represent: the extraordinary.

I read it and I see a little person being fooled.

I see someone turning to a Christmas tree and saying, "You know, you're made of plastic."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

they strayed inland, in some of our numerous excursions

A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay by Watkin Tench (1789)

A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson by Watkin Tench (1793)

Watkin Tench sailed in the First Fleet with Arthur Phillip but he does not write about "order and useful arrangement, arising gradually out of tumult and confusion" in the settlement; he describes a group of characters making progress at different speeds in the direction of more or less the same objective, or not personally and individually the same objective but one that they are all bound to by the presence of the country that they inhabit.

They all want to go on living, some of them by farming, some of them by stealing, some of them by escaping: there is the convict who stole a boat and sailed away into oblivion, never seen again, and there is a set of cows that left as well, and were never seen again, no sign of them, no sign that any convict or indigene had killed or eaten them, no trace, no hoofprint, a band of lost cows gone forever and immortal. No doubt they wanted to live too. In pursuit of this aim they allowed the continent to swallow them. They have haunted us ever since (not only Australians but potentially the entire reading world); they are there in Tench, they are there in The Voyage of Governor Phillip, they are a literary and historical presence, their exterior presences or physical spirits having been transferred into books and never into the slaughterhouse or, if you believe the evidence, into a human mouth, or the mouth of any animal.

But into the maw of books, which will never finish eating them.

In my former narrative I have particularly noticed the sudden disappearance of the cattle, which we had brought with us into the country. Not a trace of them has ever since been observed. Their fate is a riddle, so difficult of solution that I shall not attempt it. Surely had they strayed inland, in some of our numerous excursions, marks of them must have been found. It is equally impossible to believe that either the convicts or natives killed and ate them, without some sign of detection ensuing

The nation should be haunted by a terrible symbol of cows, and there should be a cow statue or cow monument. The lawn that grows over parliament in the garden city capital is waiting for its ghosts. The static cattle -- the Dororthy Wordsworth cattle, "which accident stamped a character upon places, else unrememberable," the Beckett cattle -- have walked off.

"We have finished being your message to the landscape or the landscape's message to you: we're away," they said. Then there are Ernestine Hill's dried cattle around the dead waterhole in her travel records; there is Clancy in Banjo Paterson, gone droving "and we don't know where he are." "As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,"

They have become everyday life, "the measure of all things" (Guy Debord) and the buttress of the extraordinary.

The writers that Stockdale excerpted in Governor Phillip liked to stay at the level of an observation or a fact, and record the plumage of the parrot without recording also their own personal encounter with a parrot (or Stockdale cuts out the story and yet I don't think so for their tones are so military and so scientific) but Tench has his own natural authorial motion, which is a vibration between anecdote and fact.

Proceeded to the settlement called the Ponds, a name which I suppose it derived from several ponds of water which are near the farms. Here reside the fourteen following settlers. [list of settlers] The Prospect Hill terms of settlement extend to this place. My private remarks were not many. Some spots which I passed over I thought desirable, particularly Ramsay's farm; and he deserves a good spot, for he is a civil, sober, industrious man. Besides his corn land, he has a well laid out little garden, in which I found him and his wife busily at work. He praised her industry to me; and said he did not doubt of succeeding. It is not often seen that sailors make good farmers; but this man I think bids fair to contradict the observation.

So all his facts spread out around an "I" who is involved in fact-generation, who measures the facts, who inserts himself into the facts, I spoke to him and he confirmed it ..., or on my observation or I saw or I went or I measured. "The natives around Port Jackson are in person rather more diminutive and slighter made, especially about the thighs and legs, than the Europeans. It is doubtful whether their society contained a person of six feet high. The tallest I ever measured, reached five feet eleven inches, and men of his height were rarely seen."

He is an agent of population, like the cows, who have multiplied themselves by roaming out. He is in the beetles -- he will live in the beetles -- he will abide in them -- he will plant his I -- with instruments -- with rum --

The hardiness of some of the insects deserves to be mentioned. A beetle was immersed in proof spirits for four hours, and when taken out crawled away almost immediately. It was a second time immersed, and continued in a glass of rum for a day and a night, at the expiration of which period it still showed symptoms of life. Perhaps, however, what I from ignorance deem wonderful is common.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

compiled from Authentic Papers

(I said I'd cover two books per post but I'm exhausted for reasons that have nothing to do with the blog, so I'm reverting to a single book.)

The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay with an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island; compiled from Authentic Papers, which have been obtained from the several Departments to which are added the Journals of Lieuts. Shortland, Watts, Ball and Capt. Marshall with an Account of their New Discoveries, embellished with fifty five Copper Plates, the Maps and Charts taken from Actual Surveys, and the plans and views drawn on the spot, by Capt. Hunter, Lieuts. Shortland, Watts, Dawes, Bradley, Capt. Marshall, etc.

The current of order was running through these people (the belief in order, and the trust in it: I think it was a current of trust), or so I can imagine when I read them and perceive that theme recurring, a mental liquid that could fill any balloon: it ran through Caroline Chisholm in 1842, it ran through Mary Gaunt and Catherine Helen Spence, it runs through Arthur Phillip when he writes his portions of The Voyage Of Governor Phillip To Botany Bay, which says that it has been edited by a publisher named John Stockdale who pulled material from different authors, sometimes paraphrasing them and sometimes printing them verbatim. The difference is not always acknowledged but the tenses and references change and by this I believe that I can pick him out.

Order sees its opportunity and pounces or flows in a greedy or anarchistic way, it is a vapour or a droplet; in Phillip it comes to fruition not through female immigrants as in Chisholm or fictional characters finding work as in Gaunt and Spence, but through an adventure.

There are few things more pleasing than the contemplation of order and useful arrangement, arising gradually out of tumult and confusion; and perhaps this satisfaction cannot any where be more fully enjoyed than where a settlement of civilized people is fixing itself upon a newly discovered or savage coast. The wild appearance of land entirely untouched by cultivation, the close and perplexed growing of trees, interrupted now and then by barren spots, bare rocks, or spaces overgrown with weeds, flowers, flowering shrubs, or underwood, scattered and intermingled in the most promiscuous manner, are the first objects that present themselves; afterwards, the irregular placing of the first tents which are pitched, or huts which are erected for immediate accommodation, wherever chance presents a spot tolerably free from obstacles, or more easily cleared than the rest, with the bustle of various hands busily employed in a number of the most incongruous works, increases rather than diminishes the disorder, and produces a confusion of effect, which for a time appears inextricable, and seems to threaten an endless continuance of perplexity. But by degrees large spaces are opened, plans are formed, lines marked, and a prospect at least of future regularity is clearly discerned, and is made the more striking by the recollection of the former confusion.

Order in this instance is a way of measuring time. It is a clock or a calender for the colony. Phillip never wants to end anything, he only wants to order it; he does not want to stop the Eora people living along the coast, he only wants fair conduct between them and him, he does not want to end sex among convicts, he wants to direct it. "He particularly noticed the illegal intercourse between the sexes as an offence which encouraged a general profligacy of manners, and was in several ways injurious to society. To prevent this, he strongly recommended marriage ... we are informed, that in the course of the ensuing week fourteen marriages took place among the convicts." John Latham, the ornithologist whose descriptions of birds have been borrowed by Stockdale for the book, does not want to end birds, he wants to describe them.

The colour of the head, neck, and under parts of the body are dusky brown, inclining to olive, darkest on the belly: the feathers of the top of the head and back part of the neck are edged with olive; the rest of the plumage on the upper part of the body, the wings, and tail, are of a glossy black; the last is pretty long and a little rounded at the end; the two middle feathers are wholly black; the others of a fine vermilion in the middle for about one-third, otherwise black; the outer edge of the exterior feather black the whole length. Legs black.

The connection between Ruskin's moral noticing and the contemporary upsurge in scientific philosophy becomes very bare to me now, this same science that created his dark cloud as well as mountains in the form that he looked at them (both massively and smally), and if you hate those things that are closest to yourself as they say you're supposed to do then I might imagine that I'm being illuminated when I remember that Thoreau said he hated scientists for the way they ordered and categorised things, and I could think, "Of course, since he and they were both in the business of noticing. But the expression or ordering was different."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

that place in the world which she was always longing for

Kirkham's Find by Mary Gaunt (1897)

Now that I'm writing about this book I wonder if was right when I said that Mr Hogarth's Will was the book that Dale Spender liked more than most other books. Kirkham's Find is superficially similar and I might have mingled them. Spence and Gaunt both want the reader to agree that a woman who works for her living is a right and good person. They sweeten the deal by throwing in a husband at the end. Husband is a decent gent. The man and the woman have both done the right thing and they are each other's reward.

They both end with this dangling QED.

(Decency is an aspiration in these books, Phoebe in Kirkham's moving into a dirty cottage and battling it, "she was a strong, active young woman, not afraid of work, and with a good fire, lots of hot water and plenty of soap, things soon began to assume a different aspect," fighting in spiritual combat against the lazy cottage next door -- decency here is an extrapolation of non-complacency and struggle. Battlers are decent. (Bells ringing in Australian minds: the Little Aussie Battler.) The Chisholm book about Female Immigration is a record of the same tentacular ideas being extended onto fleshy people. Chisholm assumes that they should be so extended: she does not expect anyone in her audience to disagree. And the ground is watered for her by books like this, though not these books in particular; she came before them. Their minds run into one another and the idea reappears with a new moustache or a hat. Am I right when I see egalitarianism here, with these people telling you that you might not be able to be titled or rich or formally educated, but anybody can be decent, even if you are "the manager of a butter factory" (Gaunt) -- yet, a question, whose vision of egalitarianism is this?)

Spence's book's desire to be conventional is sharper: it starts with a piece of come-hither drama when two sisters lose everything and a man is not allowed to marry the woman he loves or else he will lose everything too. Gaunt doesn't have that; the women in her story are poor but the family has enough money to keep them alive. They are discontented, that is the problem. Their selves are starved.

Beside Nancy's sparkling eyes and fresh complexion her sister's pale face looked sallow; her dark hair, though abundant, was dull in hue; her heavy brown eyes were too deep-set, and her whole face wore a sad and discontented air which alone would have spoiled far greater beauty than she possessed. Her figure was good and she was tall, and had she had but that place in the world which she was always longing for, there would have been many to call the eldest Miss Marsden a handsome woman.

Phoebe's problem is multi-pronged (she has no money, she has a passive-aggressive and hostile family, she is getting older) but essentially she needs to be content.

(She is in the same situation as Louie Pollit is, in The Man Who Loved Children, needing to get away from her family for the sake of her soul, and the Marsden father mollycoddles himself like Sam.)

She goes after independence stoically and firmly and Gaunt follows her methodically and slowly from one action to another, watching her as she approaches each problem.

First there is the keeping of a few hives in converted crates, then the slow organisation of honey-selling -- which means that she has to catch lifts into Ballarat with her monstrous father -- then the gradual accumulation of money and hives with the assistance of "a quaint American bee journal" named Gleanings in Bee Culture by A.I. Root who lived in Medina, Ohio, where the local school's football team is still known as The Battling Bees.

Everything happens chronologically slowly inside the world of the story, even the mail is slow, gold prospecting is slow, bee-accumulation is slow; the few fast things are not worthwhile (Nancy marries a rich man for quick money), only gradual steady motion is trustworthy, though even then the ending is ambiguous ("Phoebe, dear, you really are marrying the wrong man," says one of Phoebe's other sisters and the author may not think that she is wrong), the world is not perfect, Gaunt herself demonstrating the steadiness principle with the matter of her writing, the style proceeding at an even pace, nothing flashy, just making its way on, adding the few extra words that will make the meaning more than clear ("dull in hue," when she could have left it at "dull," colloquial trust overpowered by the desire to have the reader utterly possess and cohabit with the writer's intention), not stinting, and going onwards for its reward.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

you continue to look in front of you as far as may be

(Only one today.)

In the Mist of the Mountains by Ethel Turner (1908)

Books on Project Gutenberg don't always come with covers or blurbs and I didn't know what this one was about until page four. First you have this description:

There is nothing to see, absolutely nothing at all. You know that there are trees on either hand of you, and that the undergrowth is bursting into the stars and delicate bells of its springtime bloom. But your knowledge of this is merely one of the services your memory does for you, for the mist has covered it all away from sight.

You look behind you and your world is blotted out.

You look in front of you, -- nay, you cannot look in front of you, for the mist lies as a veil, actually on your face.

“I breathed up a whole cloud this morning,” Lynn remarked once.

“I eated one -- and it was nasty,” said Max.

Still you continue to look in front of you as far as may be.

And the next moment the veil lifts, -- clean up over your head perhaps, and you see it rolling away on the wind to one side of you, yards and yards of flying white gossamer, its ragged edges catching in the trees.

And now your gaze leaps and lingers, and lingers and leaps for miles in front of you. You look downward and the ball of the earth has split at your feet and the huge fissure has widened and widened till a limitless valley lies there. You look down hundreds of feet and see like sprouting seedlings the tops of gum trees, --gum trees two hundred feet high.

So it starts with a system of feeling and motion through the intimate "you" which is a word that storytellers use, and these two voices coming to you as if you know them -- first you are told that you are having the sensation of the mountain, even though you are actually at home or wherever you are reading the book, and not on the mountain (probably not on the mountain, maybe you are on the mountain), still, you are told to imagine it, and then the voices, a lesson she could have learned from Dickens (Great Expectations launching you against the present when Pip weeps, the lesson is the sudden focussing power of a voice) and then you are told that you know these children, who are fictional, or that the author is a voice that knows them. Either way they have existed for a while because Lynn made her remark not now but "once."

They are adding this bit of narrative past to the mist and interrupting the author, who is telling you about the mist "actually in your face" "Still you continue to look ..." -- two sentences that could have come after one another with no children, and yet here are the children, two dumb or innocent ghosts whose experiences are apparently valid, and who reassure you silently, "Don't worry, dear impatient reader, there are going to be people soon: it isn't all description."

Next Ethel Turner describes a town on the mountain, she lists a population ("two photographers, two shoe-menders, two house agents, two visiting doctors"), and it feels as if she is moving to a point of solidity. The mist passes but the humans are coagulating. Anticipating a story soon. The children speak again and I decide that this book is going to have a consolidated personality because all of the books I have read have had personalities eventually (I am complacent, I do not assume that this is going to be the first book in the world that doesn't have a personality) but what is that personality? (I could be wrong; The Mist of the Mountains could be the first indescribable or miraculous book.)

The personality is a mystery. Is it an interesting mystery? Ethel Turner wrote Seven Little Australians but I do not feel strongly about Seven Little Australians. I am happy because I recognise the gum trees "two hundred feet high" and the fresh brutality of the mist against the springtime bells. It might be a book about paradoxes. (Sue at Whispering Gums has been discussing Christina Stead's paradoxical phrases like "chaste and impure," this language of hers that has the degenerate dark energy of corruption.) They might be trapped on this mountain. Seven Little Australians tells you what it is going to be in the second sentence. "If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps; a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down the book immediately and betake yourself to 'Sandford and Merton' or similar standard juvenile works." Mist does not tell you. Indirectness seems adult because indirectness believes that you can wait. But the primary characters by the end of chapter one are still the children. I believe the author wants me to be tickled by baby-talk. She trusts me to be excited by a cast of nonthreatening cutes. A little strange to realise that she is making that assumption. We have never met. She died in 1958. All right then.

(It's a romantic farce.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

stringybark, and a framework

Bark House Days, by Mary E. Fullerton (1931)

Mary Fullerton misses the house that her father built, "all of stringybark, and a framework of bush timber." "The structures of pioneer days are not for permanency. We were born in it, the whole wild, shy, little seven of us, and when it began to tumble and lurch itself out of plumb, hands, I know not if desecrating or reverent, were laid upon it, and it was demolished." The children were wild and shy and the hut was wild and shy, and Mary Fullerton is over fifty; she will be demolished as well when she is seventy-seven, and from then on nobody will know what it was like to live in that bark house but they will know that she knew, and that she missed it; maybe they will be reverent rather than desecrating when they are tearing down houses, after they have read that phrase: "I know not if ..." They do not know what will happen to their childhood homes either. In their imaginations they will have done the right thing even though the house is still down. "There was a gooseberry bush at the back, too, that always betrayed us by tearing the letter “L” in our pinnies." Some lessons are wildly aimed.

Mr Hogarth's Will by Catherine Helen Spence (1865)

I can't find the page now but I think Dale Spender in Writing a New World says that Mr Hogarth's Will is one of the best books she's ever read. I did not find it so satisfying because I thought it was a book that let itself be polluted by the nature of books, or what was expected of books, or what the author thought the nature of books or serialised stories should be. By this I mean that this is an idea-centred book, that the author started with an idea, solved the immediate problem associated with the idea, and then the story dissolved into who was going to get married to who and who was Francis thingy's mother and whether he would get to keep the money from Mr Hogarth's will or not, and other ideas that were more or less irrelevant to the idea and less interesting and novel than the idea, which is: how are educated women in 1865 going to support themselves when nobody will employ them to do the work they're qualified for?

The author says that the problem is pervasive but then the central character finds some useful friends who help her and that area of concern sort of wanders off with a further mention here and there but nothing sustained, and no panorama. So the financial survival of all of these hinted-at women is set on the same level of temporary problematic problems as the will itself, which is particular to that family and only tangentially affects anyone outside.

Once everybody works out how to be nice and thoughtful and do the right thing then the problem is solved in that family, which, as far as the book is concerned, is the prime context of everything and stuff the rest of us, we get lip service.

I am on the sides of all the women who are not in that family.

It is like a curse on me when I see a book that could do something that it wants to do and then it doesn't do it. Francis thingy's estranged mother! Why doesn't Spence bring her into the scheme of the idea? She's a woman isn't she? She's a woman who needs money? But she has been cast in a villain role and somehow that has excluded her. Mr Hogarth's Will was invented to espouse the idea (that's how it seems) but the book like a parasite sucking the host dry has murdered its progenitor. When I think back now it feels as though the theme was waiting to be ambushed from the beginning. If Spence had thought about the matter seriously then Mr Hogarth's Will should at least have ended with someone starving to death in penury with a rejection letter clutched in her spasming hands. Spence knew Catherine Martin (The Silent Sea, An Australian Girl).