Saturday, February 28, 2015

already done, captain

But Kingsley is teasing you with the impossible book because he is about to overcome it. This is not brokenness he is showing you, it is triumph

I replied not, but went into my bedroom, and returning with a thick roll of papers threw it on the floor—as on the stage the honest notary throws down the long-lost will,—and there I stood for a moment with my arms folded, eyeing Brentwood triumphantly.

"It is already done, captain," I said. "There it lies."

It is the book we are about to read. Kingsley uses the same pattern again later when he wants to introduce a parson named Frank Maberley. One character has suggested that an action is impossible; another character has performed it already.

The dinner time was past some ten minutes, when they saw a man in black put his hand on the garden-gate, vault over, and run breathless up to the hall-door. Tom had recognised him and dashed out to receive him, but ere he had time to say "good day" even, the new comer pulled out his watch, and, having looked at it, said in a tone of vexation: --

"Twenty-one minutes, as near as possible; nay, a little over. By Jove! how pursy a fellow gets mewed up in town! How far do you call it, now, from the Buller Arms?"

"It is close upon four miles," said Tom, highly amused.

"So they told me," replied Frank Maberly. "I left my portmanteau there, and the landlord-fellow had the audacity to say in conversation that I couldn't run the four miles in twenty minutes. It's lucky a parson can't bet, or I should have lost my money. But the last mile is very much up-hill, as you must allow."

Power, power; and the author of Kingsley's entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography believes that the man was in awe of his brother Charles, the Muscular Christian. "Sensitive about his puny and ugly appearance, he was inclined to adulate more personable contemporaries, especially his brother." That might be wishful gossip but it prompts me to notice that the narrator's writing-deed has been brought into the same framework as the Muscular Christian parson's running-deed, not only power, but power legitimised by the framing, made not-random, not enigmatic or questionable, or, put it this way: the deeds are not personal, not held and nourished in private, instead they are social, since other people are evidently rolling them around in their minds and calling out for their accomplishment.

Kingsley likes to present the actions of his characters in this call-and-response way (I mean he lets you know that these actions are wanted), and some of those actions should have been personal, perhaps, and I am wishing, when I think about it, that a person could put flowers in her hair without being hijacked.

Her complexion was very full, as though she were blushing at something one of them had said to her, and while I watched I saw James rise and go to a jug of flowers, and bring back a wreath of scarlet Kennedia, saying: –

"Do us a favour on Christmas night, Mary; twine this in your hair."

She blushed deeper than before, but she did it, and Tom helped her.

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