The story is told. I think I now see the judicious reader putting on his spectacles to look for the moral. It would be an insult to his sagacity to offer directions. I only say, God speed him in the quest!
I have noticed that many bloggers post apposite quotes from time to time on their blogs. Stuff from a book they’ve read. Something a writer in the public eye has written or said in an interview. Sometimes they post a collection of quotes they’ve liked, rather as compilers of commonplace books used to do in olden days.
Commonplace books? If you didn’t know they were, maybe still are, a bit like literary scrapbooks but without the cutting and pasting. (At least one hopes not — it would be awful to imagine books being vandalised in such a way, rather as dealers remove prints from vintage books to frame and sell to people who want to add cachet to their mock Tudor semi-detached homes.)
Anyway, I digress.
The quote above is from a book I’ve been dipping into and reading the background of, hoping to get into it in the not too distant future. My copy is 666 pages long, but I’ve cheated a bit by quoting the end. Having read the wonderfully funny opening (which is also beautifully written) I wondered if the humour had persevered till the end, and was gratified that it did. Published at a time when novels were expected to be morally improving, this was possibly the author’s riposte to criticisms of an earlier novel.
It may also be a challenge to readers to think for themselves and not to expect to be provided with a simple explanation of the novel’s purpose, if purpose there be. It’s teasing too. Is there a moral to be had? The advice given suggests ambiguity.
Before I reveal the source of this quote, let me make an observation. As some of you know, I’m mildly interested in spam — its nuisance value, its puerile nature, above all its pointlessness in respect of blogs. A recent check (I do check in case the odd genuine comment gets misdirected) revealed the usual clutch of suspects: Viagra, branded clothing imitations, gambling sites, bitcoin, cheap wigs for heaven’s sake!
Anyway, the two posts that have overwhelmingly been targeted, for no reason I can ascertain, are my reviews of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. Why these two in particular is puzzling; all I can think is that they have been randomly chosen to go on a circulating list for spammers, who then give it all they’ve got. Though they reckon without WordPress’s spam filter, Akismet, which traps them in its virtual net before digesting them. That’s kismet for you.
These two posts have been recently joined by a new kid on the block. Step forward the vintage postcard of the former lighthouse at Delfzijl which I included in my review of Georges Simenon’s Maigret in Holland. It appears that the spammers are expecting a response from an image in a media library. Which they’re never going to get.
Is there a moral in this sorry saga? Is it that, however stupid spammers are, there’s always someone stupider (or at least not internet savvy, and that’s been me in the past) who will fall for the ruse by clicking on that link, responding to that illiterate message or reaching for that Cyrillic dictionary?
And now that quote. It’s from Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley, the final paragraph. This was Charlotte’s second published novel (after Jane Eyre) and appeared in 1849. This was just after a tumultuous year in Europe, the so-called Year of Revolutions, and reveals some of Charlotte’s social awareness, perhaps after so many of those revolts failed.
But as I said her writing also reveals her humorous side, apparent right from the novel’s opening through to the end. Charles Kingsley was to reveal a similarly cheeky approach to Victorian sententiousness in his The Water-Babies (1862-3) when he included this couplet:
Come read me my riddle, each good little man:
If you cannot read it, no grown-up folk can.
I’m now taking off my spectacles, and I suggest you do too.