CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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Today — November 24, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From J. I. M. Stewart's A Palace of Art:

***

"If not a palazzo, a palazzina. Or, say, a palazzotto." Dictionary patter of this sort was also characteristic of Domberg.

***

"I've forgotten if you smoke?"

For a moment Chevalley appeared to have forgotten too. Then he shook his head.

***

[Domberg disapproves of his own joke.]

"Mrs. Montacute master-minded the thing. Or mistress-minded it." Domberg paused on this joke, and appeared not to approve of it.

***

The way the French treat their wine! Without ceremony, you might call it. But the same stuff is better there than here, all the same. A living relationship is what's involved. It might be the same with art. Finer if handled more freely. Not made a thing of, you might say.

***

"Do I begin to make myself clear?"

The philosophic Domberg paused for a moment on this note of serious interrogation, and was rewarded by Thurkle with at least the ghost of a nod.

***

Perhaps she'd glimpsed him on television, talking about polyphonic music or the pound sterling. It could only have been a glimpse, since she always turned that sort of programme off.

***

Gloria felt she must by no means counter or abridge this small enclave of adolescent Sehnsucht in her almost undeviatingly rational friend. (Gloria didn't, indeed, employ this sort of language to herself. But chroniclers have their occasional privileges.)

***

They paused outside for a few moments to assure one another that it had all been great fun--just as if they were forty-year-olds at the end of a party that hadn't quite come off.

***

Gloria was alone, and in front of her on the table stood an espresso. To Octavius's eye the minute cup, not quite filled with the blackest of black coffee, bore an austere and even forbidding appearance. He realized that he was going to be very easily unnerved.

***

You played [rugby] for England on the strength of a certain radical masculinity which wasn't a bit relevant when deciding whether a Sacred Conversation, or a Madonna with Donors, or a Saint Somebody in his Study, was by this artist or that.

***

Gloria applied herself to sorting out this and that. But neither this nor that was among her more intimate affairs.

***

Drop your job-satisfaction-quotient too far and it was mathematically--or was it psychologically?--impossible to do the job well.

***

It had been what a psychologist (or was it an economist?) would have called counterproductive.

***

She had come to think of the world as consisting of small equivocal queues.

***

Jake chucked the packet in the air as if it was a tennis-ball and smacked it with an open hand. It flew across the bar and landed in the lap of a stout lady drinking Guinness. Nobody seemed annoyed, least of all the stout lady. It was a friendly sort of bar.

***

The suiting didn't suit him.

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November 21, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Simon Said, by Sarah R. Shaber:

***

Alex Andrus was pacing in front of the windows, carefully balancing a well-worn chip on his shoulder.

***

From Charlotte Stein:

***

She wasn’t even sure how serious he was. Twenty percent seemed like a lot, but one eyebrow was lower than the other and his eyes seemed kind of big. Thirty percent concerned didn’t look out of the question.

***

From Michael Innes's Hamlet, Revenge!

***

[Professor Bunney is doing field work for his linguistics studies, using a "black box" that records people saying test phrases like "bunchy cushiony" and analyzes the accents.]

"It was Bunney, was it? Has he black-boxed you?"

"Yes. Bunchy cushiony Bunney. How did he get here?"

"Mother picked him up at a party. He black-boxed her and she was thrilled."

***

"How morbidly Edwardian-Clever Mother is! Don't you think?"

***

The Duchess gave a commanding nod at the ugly publisher, who instantly entered on a subject about which he knew nothing at all.... "And what," asked Tucker gravely, "do you think of this younger German school?" The question was ninety-nine per cent safe.

***

"Often," replied Gott, unwarily stepping into the position of a fellow-author, "I get a new start from brandy and muffins."

"Really...and muffins? I never heard of that." Piper eyed Gott as one might eye a suddenly perceived object of minor but authentic interest in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

***

But at Question Fifteen, although Noel considered it particularly adroitly introduced, Mrs. Terborg halted.

"Mind your own business," said Mrs. Terborg.

Noel was overwhelmed. "Oh, I say, I'm most frightfully--"

But Mrs. Terborg had stooped down to the border. "This one with the tiny flat leaves," she said. "Such a quaint name: mind your own business!"

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November 17, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Lawrence Block:

***

A man with a clipboard never looks out of place.

***

"Can you tell me what in the hell a thirty percent chance of rain means? What do I do, carry a third of an umbrella?"

***

"I swear, if jumping weren't allowed she'd never get to a conclusion."

***

From Margery Allingham:

***

She was a sharp, vivid entity, and when one first saw her the immediate thing one realised was that it had not happened before.

***

"There's someone around here to whom I take off my hat--all my hats."

***

He was barely on speaking terms with himself, let alone anyone else.

***

"It's no use me sitting around dressed like a parcel if company's not expected."

***

He... bustled out of the room, taking an atmosphere of nervous excitement which was somehow backless and ephemeral, like a methylated spirit flame, with him.

***

"That's plain speaking, isn't it?"

"Almost homely," agreed Mr Campion absently.

***

"There's a word for you, Georgia my pet. You're a proper cough drop, aren't you?"

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November 14, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Lawrence Block:

"Did you ever read a book called Talk? A girl wrote it, Linda, her last name was either Rosenkrantz or Guildenstern and I’ll never know which."

***

"Do we have any English muffins left?”

“No.”

“Funny, we didn’t have any at breakfast time either. Or yesterday. It’s fucking amazing how long a lack of English muffins can continue around here."

***

“I’ll tell you something, most people are a pain in the ass.”

“An unqualified pain in the ass.”

“How do you qualify one?”

“You have to pass an examination."

***

I had thought of calling but had deliberately decided not to, and for no rational reason, but as if covering every bit of the distance under my own power was somehow necessary, would somehow prove something which somehow had to be proved.

***

“You know who you just sounded exactly like? Dr. Joyce Brothers.”

“That’s been my lifelong ambition. An inarticulate Dr. Joyce Brothers, that’s me.”

***

Healthily impulsive sex is one thing and waking an habitual late riser at four-thirty in the ayem is another thing entirely.

["Ayem" for a.m.!!]

***

I don’t know what I was waiting for. I waited for it a long time, whatever it was,

***

“I guess we’re not going to wait until Wednesday.”

“It’s always Wednesday. In the hot pants of the soul it is always three o’clock in the Wednesday.”

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November 10, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From A Social Departure by Sara Jeannette Duncan:

Orthodocia nearly went into a convulsion at the discovery that as a mark of special consideration he had given the moustache-cup to the aunt.

***

From Anthony Berkeley:

"I don't suppose Mr. Ennisomething Smith will." [The character's name is Ennismore Smith, but the police inspector is obviously having trouble remembering it.]

***

She doesn't look like a secretary at all; more like a . . . A what? Roger was not sure. Fish-wife sounded rude. Besides, she did not look in the least like a fish-wife.

***

She said nothing, but her eyebrows were voluble.

***

Mr. Weller would make it his business to have a word to-morrow with old So-and-so, sound old This, drop a hint to old That, talk seriously to old Thing, and even penetrate to the sanctum of the great old Sir Isaac Whatnot himself.

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November 7, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Michael Innes's One Man Show:

***

The [art dealer's] hand gestured in a manner that decidely patronised the patrons indicated.

***

"The Duchess has a thing about holding things in trust?"

***

Had the later nineteenth century achieved the idea of [a nightclub], its appearance--the proposition seemed to run--would have been like /this/. But /this/ had been somewhat uncertainly conceived.

***

From Innes's Stop Press:

***
There was no evidence whatever that primitive man had been healthier than his civilized descendant. It was a different matter, now, with the apes. There was considerable scientific backing for the view that when man first stood upright he gave his physical frame a jar from which it never recovered. In this business of posture and the tummy the motto should be not back to primitive man but back to the lemurs, apes and opossums. It would look well on the stage; if a modern-dress /Hamlet/ why not a simian one?
***
From another by Innes:
***
The Applebys, had they been the sort of people provided with eyebrows for such occasions, would no doubt have raised them.
***
From Lawrence Block:
***
This didn't butter no parsnips, as my grandmother would never have dreamed of saying.

 

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November 3, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop, by Gladys Mitchell:

***

Rupert Sethleigh was five feet seven and a quarter in his socks, the wrong height for such impetuous behavior.

***

"It seems that James has told Various Lies"--the bishop's smile broke bounds at the sound of the capital letters in her voice--"and that Rupert never had any intention of going to America."

***

[A surprising image in the mouth of a character who has probably never left the British Isles:]

"You'd sooner stop up the great cave of Kentucky with little apples than you would be filling the bishop's stomach when there's scones to his tea!"

***

"Good old gaiters!" remarked the young man, with a glance at his own bare legs.

[In case it's not clear without more context, "Good old gaiters!" is strictly an expletive here.]

***

[And speaking of expletives...]

"Hoots toots!" cried Mrs. Bradley, who professed an enormous admiration for the Scots people and occasionally expressed herself in what she fondly believed to be their native tongue.

***

[Cousin to the walking encyclopedia?]

"He looks such a worm in his clothes. But take them away, and, damn it, the chap's a pocket Hercules."

***

"She goes off cackling to herself as though she'd made a joke or laid an egg or something!"

***

[Cocoa??]

"Wright--an artist. That is, in the popular conception, a man without morals, personal decency, or legal obligations. A pariah, an outcast, an unscrupulous dodger of debts. A promiscuous sitter on other people's unmade beds, a habitant of yet other people's made ones. A sipper of absinthe and imbiber of cocoa. A creature long-haired, filthy, depraved, and mentally unbalanced. A cocaine fiend, a dram drinker, an apostle of obscenity, lust, and freedom."

[And a teen listener responds:]

"Thanks," said Aubrey gratefully. "I've got all that down in shorthand. Stafford Major called me a bug-hunting stinker last term!"

[And now the payoff, in our favorite plural form:]

"How do you mean?" asked Aubrey, who had finished transcribing Mrs. Bradley's remarks about artists into longhand and now felt that he possessed sufficient verbal ammunition to account for three or four Staffords Major at the beginning of the next school term.

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October 31, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Lawrence Block:

***

"You know what the saddest words of tongue or pen are."

"'It might have been.' You're witty, but John Greenleaf was Whittier."

"My God, you read poetry and you're a smartass and you can verb like a mink. I can't let you get away altogether."

[The "verb" business is a callback to an earlier conversation, in which someone paraphrases some comprising letters she'd written that said things like "I want to verb your noun."]

***

“So long, L. L. Bean,” I said. “Hello, Victoria’s Secret.”

“Some secret. You know how many of those catalogs they mail out every month?”

***

“Or one of those scoop-necked peasant blouses, the gypsy look. That might work for you.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Or a dirndl,” I went on. “What’s a dirndl, anyway? What does it look like?”

“To me,” she said, “it always looks like a typographical error.”

***

“Well, well, well,” Ray Kirschmann said. “If my eyes was sore I swear you’d be a sight for ’em.”

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October 27, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

A few days ago, I read this in a Lawrence Block from the 1990s:

“Rats.”

“Well, you still use strong language.”

“For now. Next thing you know I’ll be saying ‘Mice.’”

***

Then, a couple of days later, I read this in a Michael Innes from the 1940s:

"There'll be rats," he said.

"Rats."

"Yes--rats. Place teeming with them."

"And I said Rats." Judith was laughing in the darkness. "I believe you consider it improper."

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October 24, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Two bits from Dotty Sayers:

***

[From a dispute between two competing creditors.]

"We hold a bill of sale on the furniture--look at the date on this document--"

Mr. MacBride said firmly:

"Ours has been running five years."

"I don't care," retorted Mr. Solomons, "if it's been running as long as Charley's Aunt!"

***

She reflected she must be completely besotted about Peter, if his laughter could hallow an aspidistra.

***

[Here's one from Lawrence Block]:

***

“I’d never hide a needle in a haystack,” she said. “It’s the first place they would look.”

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October 20, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

An Innes bit:

“***

"If I may say so,"” said Appleby, "“your district seems to be a hotbed of sexual immorality. The people are as promiscuous as old Amos Sturrock'’s goats."”

“"Amos Sturrock'’s goats are not promiscuous.”" Mutlow was suddenly indignant.

***

[A rhetorical question answered in Wodehouse]:

***

"How many times have I told you not to come in here without knocking?" he asked sternly.

The office-boy reflected.

"Seven," he replied.

***

[And more Wodehouse]:

***

"You don't need a hat to tax a man with stealing a pig," said the Hon. Galahad, who was well versed in the manners and rules of good society.

***

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October 17, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Some highlights from An American Girl in London:

***

Poppa was as disappointed as could be that he wasn't able to go with us to the lecture; but he said that politics were politics, and I suppose they are.

***

'And I'm very sorry I can't go with you to Madame Tussaud's, but you know I've been trotting about the whole morning, and all those wax people, with their idiotic expressions, this afternoon would simply finish me off!'

***

[Doing the math...]

Both our young gentlemen friends were fractional parts of the Eights, and were therefore unable to meet us.

***

One lady left us at half-past six in the afternoon, almost in tears, because she had failed to persuade me to take a few lessons, at a guinea a lesson, from a French lady who made a specialty of debutante presentations. I think I should have taken them, the occasion found me with so little self-reliance, if it had not been for Lady Torquilin. But Lady Torquilin said No, certainly not, it was a silly waste of money, and she could show me everything that was necessary for all practical purposes as well as Madame Anybody.

***

But I do not wish to be thought impertinent about the development of this particular English dress ideal. It has undoubted points of interest. I had a better opportunity of observing it at the Academy Soirée in June, when it shed abroad the suggestion of a Tennysonian idyll left out all night.

***

[Nonsense dept.]

I wanted to see Mr. Oscar Wilde very especially, but somebody told Lady Torquilin he was at the Grosvenor—'and small loss, I consider!' said she; 'he's just like any other man, dear child, only with more nonsense in his head than most of them!'

***

I did not get on well with Mr. Bangley Coffin. He seemed to mean well, but he had a great many phrases which I did not in the least understand, and to which he invariably added, 'As you say in America.' It was never by any chance a thing we did say in America, but nothing could make Mr. Bangley Coffin believe that.

***

After Lady Torquilin's expression of interest in how they behaved, I had been wondering whether the Maffertons had any idiosyncrasies, and I did not waste any unnecessary time in final touches before going down to see. I like people with idiosyncrasies, and lately I had been growing accustomed to those of the English nation; as a whole they no longer struck me forcibly. I quite anticipated some fresh ones, and the opportunity of observing them closely.

***

Perhaps Mr. Mafferton did not know how his family had intended to behave to me. At all events, he offered no apology for their conduct. I may say that the only thing of any consequence that resulted from our drive was the resolution which I am carrying out on board the s.s. 'Etruria' to-day.

*  *  *  *  *  * [N.B. These are her asterisks, not mine. She will account for them presently.]

The ladies' steward of the 'Etruria,' a little fellow with large blue eyes and spectacles and a drooping moustache, is very polite and attentive. His devotion, after Mr. Mafferton's, seems the embodiment of romance. I shall hesitate about tipping him. He has just brought me some inspiring beef-tea, which accounts for those asterisks.

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October 13, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Wodehouse's The Brinkmanship of Gallahad Threepwood:

***

"Clarice was the one who made me read Kafka. And the reason I bring her up is that Vee would never dream of doing a thing like that."

"She probably thinks Kafka's a brand of instant coffee with ninety-seven percent of the caffeine extracted."

***

Lawrence Block on coincidences... and cousins:

***

I’d had the feeling for a while now that there was a great big coincidence hovering just out of sight, waiting patiently for the chance to coincide.

***

Later I took a second sip, and was able to decide how I felt about the taste. I decided that I didn’t like it. Somewhere around the fifth sip, it had achieved the virtue of familiarity. I was accustomed to it, and the question of whether I actually liked it no longer seemed pertinent. It was like, say, a cousin.

 

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October 10, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Trail of Murder, by Christine Andreae:

***

The high point of my days had become the /Washington Post/'s crossword puzzle.... After I had cleverly penciled in all the boxes, I felt emptier than when I'd started--like bad sex.

***

"Who was it?"

[....]

"Pete Bonsecours," he read.

[....]

Bonsecours. "Good help" in French. Was there such a thing as "bad" help?

[If she has to ask, she's obviously never shopped at Radio Shack.]

 ***

[From A Fugue in Hell's Kitchen, by Hal Glatzer]:

***

I couldn't impress the impresarios.

***

Did you ever see the cartoon in the movies where Popeye runs off a cliff, keeps on running straight out into thin air, and falls down only when he looks down?

[Haha, yes, I have seen that ONE cartoon where this happens. (;v> Granted, this book, though written in the 21st century, is set in 1939... but come on.]

***

"Ye-es." His dry voice and the creaky chair made almost the same sound.

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October 6, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books, by H. J. Jackson:

***

The word itself, which Coleridge may well have used ironically to make light of his own pretensions, has stuck: readers seem to find that its Latinity confers a degree of seriousness and erudition that 'notes,' 'remarks,' 'comments,' and even 'annotations' lack.

[Or, as I wrote myself many years ago in The Quotable Jonathan Caws-Elwitt, "The lay reader might not recognize the drunken, illegible scrawlings that deface the text as the cryptic, inebriated marginalia that attract the true scholar."]

***

[A nineteenth-century child, in the course of asserting ownership of a book by writing her name in it, shows a sophisticated conception of the universe as a vacuum that compensates for her uneven grasp of geography.]

"Ann Owen Hay | Hadley | Barnet | Middlesex | England | Great Britain | Europe | P. Ocean [sic] | World | Air | Nothing."

[No turtles!]

***

[Pre–Digital Era Cultural Scapegoats dept.: In a work called The Library from 1781, poet George Crabbe blamed, among other factors, "publication in parts...and light reading for a general loss of concentration and readerly stamina."]

***

[Coleridge] might simply have been carried away by the momentum of his sentence....

[Hey, it happens to the best of us.]

***

[From a very specialized ad hoc notation system that Coleridge created to criticize passages written by Southey.]

"N.     means Nonsense."

***

Grafton describes a "raft of editions" of major and minor classical authors published between 1650 and 1730, "in all of which the voices of the arguing commentators threatened to drown the thin classic monotone of the original text."

***

[Speaking of blank books.]

[Kenneth Grahame] whimsically spoke up for "the absolute value of the margin itself" and wondered when the world might hope for "a book of verse consisting entirely of margin."

[In an unrelated passage, Jackson describes preliterate children's encounters with books as "seeing only blanks in books."]

***

The relationship between book and reader may be as fraught as any close human relationship, with the special frustration of one partner's being insensate and unchangeable.

[Except if it's The Young Wizard's Hexopedia, of course. (:v>]

***

By "author" here and hereafter I normally mean not the actual writer but Wayne Booth's "implied author"--the person inferred from the text on the page, the one we have seen annotators address as "you."

[I once did some kind of gag involving "the author" vs. "the writer," but I didn't realize that in Theoryland, this was actually a thing! But of course it is.]

***

[A bit of a Coleridge marginalium, written in response to a Wordsworth marginalium.]

"I can by no means subscribe to the above pencil mark of W. Wordsworth...."

***

But [Coleridge] was still nimble mentally, and in his notes he gives constantly the impression of someone running upstairs taking the steps two at a time.

***

The British Library copy of Richard Clark's Reminiscences of Handel, extra-illustrated by the author... is--not to put too fine a point on it--the work of a nutter; but it represents the Victorian love of trivial particulars and is in any case a captivating monument to the intractability of folly.

***

[Joanna Southcott] died in 1814, having literally failed to deliver--she announced herself, in her sixties, as about to give birth to Shiloh, the promised "man-child" of the Book of Revelation, but he never appeared....

***

Alfred Russel Wallace's Contributions to The Theory of Natural Selection (1870).... is a varied collection of essays on natural history; it contains one, for instance, titled "The Philosophy of Birds' Nests."

***

There may well be rare-book collections that would show a book the door if they found a note in it.

[I just like the image of a book being "show[n] the door" by a collection of books.]

 

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October 3, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Mulligan Stew, by Gilbert Sorrentino:

***

Let me take you back, and take myself back too. (What good is it if I take you back and leave myself here? Who then will tell you the dark tale?)

***

From Crown Witness, by Gillian Linscott:

***

He stood out from the crowd as he always did, more than six feet tall and as thin as a column in a ledger, always looking slightly baffled to find himself wherever he happened to be, as if he'd started the day in ancient Athens then found himself by some inexplicable accident elsewhere in time and place.

***

Like most of the rest of the men he was bearded, although in his case it was more like the fringe on a mantelpiece, looking as if it were in danger of losing its grip on his pink and shiny face.

***

From The Balmoral Nude, by Carolyn Coker:

"For the past two years I have been up to my handsome (if I do say so myself) Harold Macmillan mustache in evidence."

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September 30, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Murder, I Presume, by Gillian Linscott:

 ***

[Suddenly, a "Nonsense" rang out.]

"Nonsense."

The word rang out loud and clear from the gallery....

***

"Remember what the Bedouin say, young Peter: 'He who is a friend to both sides drinks bitter coffee.'"

I think he makes up these proverbs as he needs them.

***

"Bloke with eyebrows you could hang cups from...."

***

"It is so kind of you, Mr Pentland. She's enjoying it so much and--"

I'd had enough of this social play-acting. Mrs Bell had dozed comfortably through the first two acts and, in my opinion, wouldn't have noticed whether we were at the opera or at the circus.

***

The curtain went up and you couldn't hear yourself think for sopranos and tenors telling each other secrets at the tops of their voices.

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September 27, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From A Voyage of Consolation:

***

Brother Eusebius, when he found Demetrius in bed, also took it for granted that we had gone on ahead. He did not inquire, he said, because the virtue of taciturnity being denied to them in the exercise of their business, they always diligently cultivated it in private. My own conviction was that they were not on speaking terms.

***

"Perhaps I jump rather hastily to conclusions sometimes. It's a family trait. We get it through the Warwick-Howards on my mother's side."

"Then, of course, there can't be any objection to it."

***

A note of momma's occurs here to the effect that there is a great deal too much fine art in Italian hotels, with a reference to the fact that the one at Naples had the whole of Pompeii painted on the dining room walls. She considers this practice embarrassing to the public mind, which has no way of knowing whether to admire these things or not, though personally we boldly decided to scorn them all.

***

Dicky and I took it with the more moderate appreciation natural to our years, but it gave us the greatest pleasure to watch the simple and unrestrained delight of momma and poppa, and to revert, as it were, in their experience, to what our own enjoyment might have been had we been born when they were. "No express agents, no delivery carts, no baggage checks," murmured poppa, as our trunks glided up to the hotel steps, "but it gets there all the same." This was the keynote of his admiration--everything got there all the same. The surprise of it was repeated every time anything got there.

***

At this I opened my eyes inadvertently--nobody could help it--and saw the barometrical change in poppa's countenance. It went down twenty degrees with a run, and wore all the disgust of an hon. gentleman who has jumped to conclusions and found nothing to stand on.

***

I offered him sandwiches, but he seemed to prefer his moustache.

***

Leaving out the scenery--the Senator declares that nothing spoils a book of travels like scenery--the impressions of St. Moritz which remain with me have something of the quality, for me, of the illustrations in a French novel.

***

Mr. Malt declared himself so full of the picturesque already that he didn't know how he was going to hold another castle.

***

[Patron saints, jesters, and harmless oaths]:

In connection with Heidelberg I wish there were something authentic to say about Perkeo; but nobody would believe the quantity of wine he is supposed to have drunk in a day, which is the statement oftenest made about him, so it is of no consequence that I have forgotten the number of bottles. He isn't the patron saint of Heidelberg, because he only lived about a hundred and fifty years ago, and the first qualification for a patron saint is antiquity. As poppa says, there may be elderly gentlemen in Heidelberg now whose grandfathers have warned them against the personal habits of Perkeo from actual observation. Also we know that he was a court jester, and the pages of the Calendar, for some reason, are closed to persons in that walk of life. Judging by the evidences of his popularity that survive on all sides, Mr. Malt declared that he was probably worth more to the town in attracting residents and investors than half-a-dozen patron saints, and in this there may have been more truth than reverence. The Elector Charles Philip, whose court he jested for, certainly made no such mark upon his town and time as Perkeo did, and in that, perhaps, there is a moral for sovereigns, although the Senator advises me not to dwell upon it. At all events, one writes of Heidelberg but one thinks of Perkeo, as he swings from the sign-boards of the Haupt-Strasse, and stands on the lids of the beer mugs, and smiles from the extra-mural decoration of the wine shops, and lifts his glass, in eternally good wooden fellowship, beside the big Tun in the Castle cellar. There is a Hotel Perkeo, there must be Clubs Perkeo, probably a suburb and steamboats of the same name, and the local oath "Per Perkeo!" has a harmless sound, but nothing could be more binding in Heidelberg. Momma thought his example a very unfortunate one for a University town, but the rest of us were inclined to admire Perkeo as a self-made man and a success. As Dicky protested he had made the fullest use of the capacities Nature had given him, it was evident from his figure that he had even developed them, and what more profitable course should the German youth follow? He was cheerful everywhere—as the forerunner of the comic paper one supposes he had to be—but most impressive in his effigy by his master's wine vat, in the perpetual aroma that most inspired him, where, by a mechanical arrangement inside him, he still makes a joke of sorts, in somewhat graceless aspersion of the methods of the professional humorists.

***

"My dear Dick, Isabel thinks you're engaged. So does her mamma. So does Mr. Mafferton."

"Who to?" exclaimed Mr. Dod, in ungrammatical amazement.

"I looked at him reproachfully. Don't be such an owl!" I said.

Light streamed in upon Dicky's mind. "To you!" he exclaimed. "Great Scott!"

"Preposterous, isn't it?" I said.

"I should ejaculate! Well, no, I mean—I shouldn't ejaculate, but—oh, you know what I mean——"

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September 24, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

From Caravaggio's Angel, by Ruth Brandon:

***

An oak wood at the field's edge photosynthesized in the sunshine.

***

An electric storm was flickering on the horizon, spasmodically lighting the far-off hills like a faulty million-watt bulb.

***

I decided to join him on his high horse--there was plenty of room for two.

***

My questions would have introduced a note--more than a note, a whole chord, a virtual orchestra--of uncertainty.

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September 20, 2017 (permalink)


Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

[From Michael Innes's Honeybath's Haven]:

Honeybath remembered that the third-person-singular treatment was administered by Melissa only in a standing position.

***

[From Appleby Talks Again]:

***

"We hear him approaching with a sinister limp.... Your bravado deserts you. Out of compassion for your pitiable condition, I consent to our hiding in a cupboard. And there the man finds us."

"I never heard such rot. Such a thing has never happened to us. Or only once."

***

"Old Josiah Hopcutt," Appleby said, "was a prosperous manufacturer. And he continued prosperous when he had ceased to manufacture anything except large-scale tedium for the people looking after him."

***

[From Appleby and Honeybath]:

***

The books were all outsize folios, and bulky at that. They looked as if they had come into being at the hands of Johann Guttenberg in Mainz round about the middle of the fifteenth century and had been putting on weight ever since.

***

"A matter of untransacted business, as it were."

"Untransacted fiddlesticks!"

***

Miss Arne, Appleby reflected, drew ink-horn terms from one willy-nilly.

***

[From Michael Innes's The Long Farewell]:

"If, one day, something very surprising turned up about him, you wouldn't—so to speak—be very surprised. And yet this circumstance—that you wouldn't be surprised by a surprise—was surprising in itself."

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