To those of you who haven't participated before: the following is my commentary on the bit I (or we!) just read -- if you've written up a post, leave the link in the comments section and I'll compile a list.
I'm actually a bit behind, but I'm hoping to finish up sometime today, whether it be at lunch or after work.
The Story Begun by Walter Hartright (of Clement's Inn, Teacher of Drawing)
I. In which the format of the book is explained.
• First sentence: "This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve."
• "But the Law is still, in certain inevitable cases, the pre-engaged servant of the long purse...". And 150 years later? I'm glad that he opened his story with a zinger about the entire justice system.
• I thought this section read rather like the opening statement of a trial, which, considering the content of the section, was very appropriate.
• Does anyone know the history on novels with multiple narrators?
II. In which Walter Hartright stands outside his mother's door.
• Walter Hartright sounds like a Poe or Lovecraft narrator: "...out of health, out of spirits, and, if the truth must be told, out of money as well." "...the book which I was dreaming over rather than reading..."
• So due to his father's forethought, Walter is a very comfortably well-off drawing master, despite his having to stay in town for the summer.
• Walter Hartright loves his digression. I'm concerned that pages later, he will still be standing outside his mother's door.
• Oh, my. Professor Pesca is quite the Foreign Caricature. Yet so likable: "...it never occurred to me that the art of swimming might merely add one more to the list of manly exercises which the Professor believed that he could learn impromptu." Heh. My Modern Sensibilities should not allow me to think this hilarious, but I do anyway: "As soon as his chattering teeth would let him speak, he smiled vacantly, and said he thought it must have been the Cramp."
• If not for Pesca: "I should never, perhaps, have heard even the name of the woman who has lived in all my thoughts, who has possessed herself of all my energies, who has become the one guiding influence that now directs the purpose of my life." Wow.
III. In which Pesca breaks a teacup and brings Walter a job offer.
• This made me happy: "We both bounced into the parlour in a highly abrupt and undignified manner." Up until now, his voice hadn't suggested anything playful in his nature -- but that makes sense, as writing this document is his version of a trial. Unless he was just doing it to kind of mock Pesca. But he doesn't seem mean like that. So I'm going to go with playful.
• It's odd that Pesca, with his love of All Things British, has a "constitutional contempt for appearances". Why am I so obsessed with Pesca? Moving on.
• Like the bit about Money and the Law at the beginning, is Wilkie Making A Statement here?: "Are we, I wonder, quite such genuine boys and girls now as our seniors were in their time? Has the great advance in education taken rather too long a stride; and are we in these modern days, just the least trifle in the world too well brought up?"
• Sarah is AWFUL. What a pill.
• See? I think I was right. Pesca's bouncing and whatnot conflicts with this statement: "It may be necessary to explain here that Pesca prided himself on being a perfect Englishman in his language, as well as in his dress, manners, and amusements." I mean, doesn't it? So is Walter trying to stick the Little Foreigner in an easily labeled box, or I am I thinking about this too much?
• Wow. Pesca's dialogue and flair for description (and asides) made me snicker -- and I liked getting little snippets of HIS view of the English. I rather think he sees them as Foreign Caricatures -- the flipside to how Walter sees him. "...as you English begin everything in this blessed world that you have to say, with a great O..."
• OOOOooo. Walter is having a Vague Premonition and a (Possible) Uncomfortable Feeling of Future Doom in regards to the job offer: "...no sooner had I read the memorandum than I felt an inexplicable unwillingness within me to stir in the matter. I had never in the whole of my previous experience found my duty and my inclination so painfully and so unaccountably at variance as I found them now." Again with the Poe/Lovecraftian feeling.
IV. In which Walter meets the Woman in White.
• So, Walter's making his way back to London in a very roundabout way, and Holy Cow, it's the WOMAN IN WHITE! "There was nothing wild, nothing immodest in her manner: it was quiet and self-controlled, a little melancholy and a little touched by suspicion; not exactly the manner of a lady, and, at the same time, not the manner of a woman in the humblest rank of life."
• "I trace these lines, self-distrustfully, with the shadows of after-events darkening the very paper I write on; and still I say, what could I do?" As he promises to help her, I must assume that somehow, It All Goes Wrong:
As she repeated the words for the third time, she came close to me and laid her hand, with a sudden gentle stealthiness, on my bosom—a thin hand; a cold hand (when I removed it with mine) even on that sultry night. Remember that I was young; remember that the hand which touched me was a woman's.
"Will you promise?"
One word! The little familiar word that is on everybody's lips, every hour in the day. Oh me! and I tremble, now, when I write it.
That bit is so awesomely melodramatic. You know, I KNOW I've read this book, but I don't remember a THING about it.
• She makes mention of a Bad Baronet (or, at least, it seems clear that he's Bad), but she won't elaborate.
• AH HA! And she JUST SO HAPPENS to have spent time at Limmeridge House. But that the Fairlie family she knew is dead. And Walter doesn't mention that he's headed there tomorrow. And then she hops in a cab and disappears. (I mean, the cab drives away. With her in it.)
• Uh oh -- Walter just overheard two men tell a policeman that they're searching for a Woman in White! Who has (according to them) just escaped from an Asylum! But Walter doesn't say anything to them. (Good job, Walter.)
V. In which Walter tortures himself with Questions, and then heads off to Limmeridge.
• "...my supper was awaiting me, in a forlorn manner, at one extremity of a lonesome mahogany wilderness of dining-table." I always like that image.
VI. In which Walter has breakfast and hardly gets a word in edgewise... except for spilling all about the Woman in White.
• While I've been smiling tons, this was my first real laugh-out-loud moment:
She turned towards me immediately. The easy elegance of every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began to advance from the far end of the room, set me in a flutter of expectation to see her face clearly. She left the window—and I said to myself, The lady is dark. She moved forward a few steps—and I said to myself, The lady is young. She approached nearer—and I said to myself (with a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly!
• I do not buy Walter's notion that beauty in a woman requires "gentleness and pliability". Bah.
• Well. Marian Halcombe is just awesome. And, wow. She is not a fan of her sex. (I mean, she loves her sister. But she doesn't think much of ladies in general.)
• Ooo, now she wants to investigate the mystery of the Woman in White. But while keeping her sister and her stepfather in the dark. So is her appearance and manly behavior/bearing (in Walter's opinion) Wilkie's way of keeping her purely awesome self from taking over the whole book and/or becoming an obvious love interest? If you changed her appearance a tad, she could totally be a Heyer heroine.
VII. In which Walter meets his new employer.
• Walter is so concerned with masculinity and femininity, and what are acceptable/attractive qualities in either sex! On his new employer: "Upon the whole, he had a frail, languidly-fretful, over-refined look—something singularly and unpleasantly delicate in its association with a man, and, at the same time, something which could by no possibility have looked natural and appropriate if it had been transferred to the personal appearance of a woman."
• Huh. "So glad to possess you at Limmeridge, Mr. Hartright..." Have you run across 'possess' used like that before? I haven't, so it seems strange and... kind of creepy to me. But maybe it's just an older usage.
• Mr. Fairlie is worse than Sarah. Yeesh. He'd be a good match for Mrs. Bennet (if he could cross decades and authors), but then again, her squawking would probably make his ears bleed. Or make him think his ears were going to bleed.
• Wow. Walter's really letting his snark flag fly in his narration of this scene: "As a practical commentary on the liberal social theory which he had just favoured me by illustrating, Mr. Fairlie's cool request rather amused me." Later, Mr. Fairlie continues to exhibit his awesomely liberal social beliefs with this comment: "...servants are such asses, are they not?"
• Aha ha ha ha! I had to read this bit out loud to Josh because it made me laugh so much:
"A thousand pardons, Mr. Hartright, I'm afraid I bore you."
As he wearily closed his eyes again, before I could answer, and as he did most assuredly bore me, I sat silent, and looked up at the Madonna and Child by Raphael.
Walter Hartright, keep it up! I love your bitchy side.
• Man, Louis had better earn a decent wage. It's been, like, two pages and I'm ready to bonk Mr. Fairlie upside the head with one of his portfolios.
VIII. In which Walter turns into a huge sap, and he and Marion make progress in their investigation.
• Due to quotes like this, I'm starting to fall in love with Walter: "Some of us rush through life, and some of us saunter through life. Mrs. Vesey SAT through life." And "...it will always remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born."
• I just knew Laura would be a knockout. And that Walter would fall for her.
• OH MY GOD, ALREADY. I GET IT. SHE'S THE AWESOMEST.
• Huh. "Mingling with the vivid impression produced by the charm of her fair face and head, her sweet expression, and her winning simplicity of manner, was another impression, which, in a shadowy way, suggested to me the idea of something wanting." Like, something is missing...?
I find it interesting that in the letter, it was Laura who said she'd wear white forever, but Walter and Marion immediately seemed to attribute that to the Woman in White -- and all that while Laura was gliding back and forth in her white dress.Or did I read that bit incorrectly? [Why, yes, Leila, yes you did. Just re-read that bit. I did totally read that wrong last night. It was Anne who said it. Sorry.] Also, are we going to have a love triangle on our hands?
• AHA! I thought we might have a secret twin/doppleganger situation...
Elizabeth at The Leaky Dinghy
Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza
Sarah at what we have here is a failure to communicate
Gina at the Dickensblog (not posting, but lots of discussing!)
Jes at Yellow Inkling
Anastasia at the Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
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