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, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, 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
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June 19, 2020

Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan (permalink)

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Where's the emphasis?
1. Front cover: "MR. PINKERTON AGAIN/!/" (Only the exclamation point is italicized.)
2. "Half-title" page: "Mr. Pinkerton Again!" (Nothing is italicized.)
3. Title page: "/Mr. Pinkerton Again!/" (Entire subtitle is italicized.)

Also, WHY the emphasis? (Granted, subtitles are sometimes set in italics just for show, or so that they don't feel slighted by being in smaller type.) Why the astonishment? This was book 9 in the series, and at this point (1937) they'd been coming out with great regularity. I'm not sure that anyone would have been surprised at this stage of the game to find that David Frome had written about Mr. Pinkerton AGAIN(!). They might have been more astonished in 1934, when, according to Goodreads, THREE Mr. Pinkerton books were published within the year. However, books 4 through 8 all had Mr. Pinkerton's name in the primary title, so I can understand why they wanted to supplement the Pinkerton-deficient title of #9 with a subtitle that namechecked him. And "Mr. Pinkerton Again!" is more fun than just "A Mr. Pinkerton Book," right? And maybe we're just kind of excited about it.  I suppose it might represent the attitude of Pinkerton's co-star, Humphrey Bull. Bull is the Scotland Yard inspector, and Pinkerton is his old civilian friend who is always popping up innocently but intricately in the midst of some tangled mystery that Bull is investigating. So there may be an implied "[Oh no,] Not" in front of "Mr. Pinkerton Again!"


From The Black Envelope, by David Frome:

In the cinema people in his position usually took it on the lam. He would gladly have done so too, except that he had no clear notion, really, of what the lam was.

[Dr. Johnson Or Just Some Other Dr. Johnson dept.]

"[The Brighton Pavilion is] dreadful, isn't it? Dr. Johnson said it looked to him as if St. Paul's had come to Brighton and pupped."
"I'm not interested in what your doctors say about anything!" the old lady snapped.

[But there's more! Now, a chapter later, a tour guide is doing his spiel.]

"Sidney [sic] Smith said it looked as if St. Paul's had come to Brighton and..."

[So I did some quotation research on this. Smith is the standard attribution, though I found no evidence of a documented primary source or context for the quip, only people claiming he said it--so he probably didn't. (Incidentally, I also observed that Frome is not the only one who spells Sydney Smith's name wrong.) In any event, I love Frome's sly planting of mutually contradictory attributions among her characters.]

It was best to make haste slowly.
[Ah, I see that making haste slowly is a "thing":]

[And this novel, which is set in Brighton and London, ends with a completely unexpected cameo by a proverbial farmer's daughter! Here Mr. Pinkerton, whose understanding of American idioms is limited to what he's been able to glean from the cinema, is speaking with Andy Read, an American friend, about the future of a fortune hunter, Quentin Sellers, who is now destined to work for a living. Pinkerton is sort of jokingly telling Read to tell Sellers that he's seen a suitable position advertised.]

"And he hasn't got to have any particular training. Why, they need a traveller in portable water softeners..."
Andy Read grinned.
"OK," he said. "OK for Mr. Sellers, that is.--But what does it make the farmer's daughter?"

[And that's the last line of the story! Pinkerton, we are to assume, won't get the "farmer's daughter" allusion because it's presumably an Americanism (and a bit racy for the sheltered Mr. Pinkerton). So we just leave him there puzzling over it!]
> read more from Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan . . .
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