The Delights of Good Bad Writing

 

Picture_of_Jeffery_FarnolI am run off my feet at the moment in real life with family responsibilities – as always happens during July and August – so I haven’t been able to keep up with writing at all these past few weeks.

That’s a good thing in a way; real life events should always take precedence over our imaginary worlds, as long as one has writing time over the year. Anyway,the last editing of my latest novel, that sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’’, must wait until the autumn. Still,  I do feel that I have been neglecting my blog for too long.

Apropos my last post, which commented on the similarities between the the poet and spokesman for the days of the British Empire, Rudyard Kipling, and the writer of historical romances and detective novels Georgette Heyer, I was reflecting that I must explore the writings of Jeffrey Farnol, who has something in common with either:

Here he is summed up by Wickpedia:

‘Jeffery Farnol (10 February 1878 – 9 August 1952) was a British writer from 1907 until his death, known for writing more than 40 romance novels, some formulaic and set in the Georgian Era or English Regency period, and swashbucklers. He, with Georgette Heyer, founded the Regency romantic genre.’

The synopsis of the plot for ‘ Martin Coninsby’s Vengeance’ made me laugh out loud. Here it is, in all its glory:

‘Jeffery Farnol brings back the pirate days of the Spanish Main in this stirring book with a company of picturesque characters. It is a full-blooded, wholesome novel that captivates the reader.
Martin Conisby, sour from his five years of slavery on the Spanish galleon Esmeralda, escapes during a sea fight on to an English ship and makes his way back to England. Seeking revenge on Richard Brandon, who was the cause of his father’s death and his own imprisonment. Broken both in body and spirit, he arrives home disguised as a tramp, just in time to save a beautiful girl from the hands of robber, Lady Jane Brandon, the daughter of the man whom he has sworn to punish.
In the tavern he meets an old friend, Adam Penfeather, who tells him the tale of Black Bartlemy, the infamous pirate, with his treasure buried on a desert island–treasure of magnificent value.’…

I see. I simply have to read that one. It sounds as if it must be a classic following the ‘Rinaldo Rinaldini’ blood and thunder So Bad Its Good type of reading.

The titles alone are a delight. Here are a few:

The Amateur Gentleman (1913)

The Jade of Destiny (1931)

John o’the Green (1935)

Adam Penfeather, Buccaneer (1940)

The Fool Beloved (1949)

Sorry about the uneven print size.

I have not yet explored the contents of any of Jefferey Farnol’s novels, but from those titles and that synopsis alone, I am willing to take a bet that regarding purple prose and stereotypical characters, they have something in common with the novels of Charles Garvice, writer of  best selling Victorian and Edwardian romantic melodramas.

I may be proved entirely wrong, of course, and they may contain brilliant writing along with the bad – many novels do.

Charles Garvice, to my mind, wrote the worst prose, and created the most cardboard characters, of any writer I have ever encountered. I must admit that Barbara Cartland may be a strong runner up. However, I could only endure reading two of hers. Both were terrible and full of unintentional comedy.

One was about a disguised courtier turned highwayman in the court of Charles II. The other was about an obese, drab haired girl who went into a coma for a year and emerged as a slender ash blonde creature who came over to the UK to work for her own estranged husband, with whom she had been forced into a marriage of convenience, and who didn’t recognise her.

These gave me a pretty good  idea about the value of her literary output. However, as I read these many years ago, and have been unable to track them down,  I don’t feel that I have recently read a fair enough sample of hers to claim to be properly informed.

Regulars of this blog will know of my fascination with Garvice’s works, and how Laura Sewell Mater’s article more or less summed up my own reaction, that she had only to read the few paragraphs on the pages of that Charles Garvice novel she found washed up on a beach on Iceland, to know that the writing was ‘incredibly, almost uniquely, bad’.

Many writers combine both good and bad writing – that is certainly true of Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters –  but they include too much excellent writing ever to come close to vying for the title of a Good Bad Writer, unlike Vulpius with his ‘Rinaldo Rinaldini’, Kipling in much of his poetry, Georgette Heyer, and Charles Garvice.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Episode from A Spoof Gothic Regency Romance: The Proposal

 

Medieval-CastlesThe Dastardly Duke approaches the Spirited Heroine as she walks in the castle grounds with her charges.

SH: Ho Hum! He’s got no shirt on. This means a passionate scene. This is the cover.

DD: Run and play, youngsters.

SH: Well, at least he doesn’t call them brats any more.

First Charge: I hope you are not dismissing her, Papa? [Second charge
starts sobbing]

DD: Only as governess. I will offer her a position far worthier of her talents. No questions. Run along.

Charges:  Oh good!  We can go to being spoilt brats instead of neglected treasures. Georg_Friedrich_Kersting_005_detail[They run off.}

[Now sounds a burst of organ music ]

DD: Eh, what’s that? Oh, it’s my late wife making her presence known. [shouts] I hope that’s OK with you, dearest? Damn, anachronism, I know. Give me the electric shock and get it over with. [refuses to wince as he takes his punishment]

SH: Whatever can Your Grace mean?

DD: [attempts to smile, but is too used to giving bitter grimaces to pull it off]

SH: Heavens! I hope you are not taken ill, Sir?

DD: My dear one: you cannot be unaware of the reason why I have changed form a morose, monosyllabic misanthrope to a man who sees a purpose in life.

SH: [twinkling] At least in the Regency era, it won’t be because he has been reading Hay House tripe. I know, anachronism: ouch!

DD: This is very hard for me; it goes against my nature, to admit what I have come to feel…

SH: [encouragingly] Whatever can Your Grace mean? You spoke of promoting me?

[Merry_Joseph_Blondel_-_Felicite-Louise-Julie-Constance_de_DurfortCrash of lightning. Enter the footman]

Footman: [who is, of course, a demoted ex-hero] Stop! I won’t have it! She’s my heroine, not yours, you beetle browed brute!

DD: Go to the devil, you low born cur.

Footman: I cannot stand quietly by and see a delightful maiden duped. This man is a whatchacallit- you know, the name for people who murder their wives –

DD: [with a bitter smile] Murderer will do, fellow.

[Wraith of late wife, arriving with a flash of lightning] Oh no, he isn’t!

Footman:  Oh yes, he is!

DD: Please, my dearest, stop! You fellow, silence!  I refuse to have my Proposal Scene descend into vulgar pantomime.

Footman: [brandishes sword] I’ll kill you first!

[Wraith, gliding between them] Oh, no!

DD: You and whose army? I know, anachronism. [refuses to wince as he suffers the inevitable electric shock] Anyway, I didn’t kill my beloved Matilda, for all that we quarreled bitterly. She slipped on the stairs. And that sword’s an anachronism, how come you’re being let off?

Footman: I took it from one of the suits of armour.

SH: Oh, do go away, dear. I’ll marry you immediately you get promoted again. That’s probably only three books from now. Authors do like to use your type.

DD: There will always be a demand for the Mean and Moody emotionally challenged type as long as so many women readers have bad taste.

SH: Well, I don’t. So let’s make this a wrap. I know, anachronism! Ouch.

[Footman Ex hero goes off] Oh, very well.

DD: [shouts after him] Go and clean the closets, scrub! [Drops down on his knees] Ah, will you be mine, dearest? I count your connections with trade as a mere nothing to your charm and liveliness, my dearest, sweetest –

[Wraith of ex wife] I give you my blessing. [vanishes]

DD:  She releases me. Will you marry me?

SH: I will.

[DD jumps up and they kiss]

Author: The End.

DD: What? That’s it?

SH: That’s it. This is a ‘sweet’ romance. No naughtiness beyond a chaste kiss.

DD: Well, damn me! Getting my hands on you was the only thing that kept me going.

Author: Now, what for my next? I know! A Dastardly Duke who courts a Spirited Heroine! And I’ll set it in Regency England!

[DD seizes SH’s hand and they begin to run]

220px-IncubusDD: Not me! I’m booked to be an alluring demon in a futuristic fantasy!

SH: Not me either. I’m having a go at being a female detective for my next!

Horse [who is, of course, an ex hero of the 1970 Vintage Rapist variety, demoted as he deserves) How about me?

Author: [turning up her nose] In your dreams, Dobbin! [Footman approaches] Oh, all right, you then…

 

Medieval-Castles

Scene: The Dastardly Duke and the Spirited Heroine (in the role of governess) now take dinner together, in the great hall of his castle somewhere on the Yorkshire Moors. The great hall is, of course, full of sinister shadows cast by the flickering candles.  The Spirited Heroine does not, of course, occupy the chair at the foot of the table, which is drawn back invitingly.

DD:             Damn me!  This sinister flickering gets on my nerves of an evening. I  know I’m meant to be sinister and brooding, with surroundings to match, but I sometimes  wish electricity was invented (A warning jolt from the censor) – Ouch!  Apart from the censor giving me shocks for anachronisms, that is.

SH:             [The glow of her reddish hair, and the pearly tinge to her skin lit up by the candlelight]  Well, they use it for those grotesque experiments with galvanism, of course, where they bring a newly hanged criminal back to life.

DD:             What? If only I’d known – when – when…[Grimaces and hastily refills his glass of wine]. No matter.  Do I live, or do I grind out an existence of dust and ashes.  No smile of mine has illuminated this gloomy castle these ten years, because no smile of hers… No matter. What were we speaking of? [Savagely] And I don’t care if that’s ungrammatical.

SH:             [Kindly changing the subject, though burning with curiosity]      Your Grace, I am honoured that you stoop to eat with a hireling. Why, in my last post, I had to take my dinner from a tray served in the schoolroom. Still, at least I could read and eat. At least I could put my elbows on the table, and read.

DD:             [Savagely addressing the footman] The main course, you damned low born cur!

Footman:    [Aside] This is so demeaning, in front of one of my former  heroines. I was a fool to risk demotion in putting off  recalling her to my arms in our last, even if she was tiresome! The number of times  I’ve beaten this wretch with the flat of my sword when he was the villain!  Still, from the way he’s carrying on this time, he’ll soon be demoted again. [bows and clumps out].

SH:             [Aside]  Such savagery! I must get to the bottom of this    Intriguing Mystery surrounding the isolation of this wickedly handsome and embittered man. [aside]   Thank goodness I’ve got that line out with a straight face. Now it will be a plain sailing through the Gothic bits.

DD:             You may wonder at it, my good young lady. But I sometimes weary of my own company, and I saw you  were a female of spirit. I am surprised, almost sorry, to think of your charms wilting in a schoolroom, under   the care of tiresome brats.51Iw-60CWnL._SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_

SH:             Really, Sir, surely you do not see your own daughters  in such a light?  I haven’t met my sweet pupils yet.

DD:             You won’t find them so. And why shouldn’t I see ‘em as brats? I care for nobody and nothing since the  death of my first wife. I didn’t give a hang for the     second.

SH:             You have been unlucky, Sir, twice widowed, and   yet still in your prime.

[Enter footman, lugging a heavy silver tray]

Footman:   I wish there was a service lift in this place – I know,      anachronism, Ouch!  [Sets down the dish on the table].  Do you wish me to carve, Your Grace?

DD:             No, get out of it.  I’ll serve us both. [Carves the joint     savagely. A sudden flash of lightning illuminates the chair  at the foot of the table, and in its light, a ghostly figure is visible there.]

SH:             [Continues to eat a moment, as if reluctant to leave  her dinner. Then drops her knife and fork]. My goodness,  I thought I saw –

DD:             [With set, ghastly look] Then you saw it too? Can I credit my eyes after all?

Footman:    [Coming back in]  And here’s the rest of the courses.

DD:             Curse you, fellow, I haven’t rang –  [He breaks off at another                    flash of lightning. Now the ghostly figure is clearly visible in the chair]  It is She!

SH:             Oh dear, there is never an uninterrupted meal in these Gothics.

Footman:      [To spectre, gabbling hysterically] Some nice beef, Your Grace?

Spectre:         Why not? [smiles round generally], then vanishes.

DD:                   She smiled so, on all…[quotes brokenly]    ‘Then smiles stopped altogether…’  Ouch! What was  that for, you cursed censor?

Footman:      Anachronism! Robert Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess’   was not written until 1840. This is 1812, and you’re not the  sixteenth century  Duke of Ferrara, who in the poem had his wife killed for arousing his insane jealousy,  you’re the Duke of Somewhere Made Up  in the Yokrshire Moors, and it is only rumoured that your beloved late wife died at your hands, though your mad possessiveness was legendery throughout the moors.

DD:                 Leave me,  you literary minded low born cur!

Footman:      Only too happy, you Miserable Murderer!

DD:                  You lie, you damned insolent dog! [Leaps up and chases him from the  dining hall. The sounds of a violent dispute and blows exchanged drift back through the open doors]120px-John-Pettie_Two-Strings-To-Her-Bow_1882

SH:             I’m glad he’s fighting back. He’s quite sweet, really. I much prefer him to this current hero.

[The spectre of the Duchess re-appears, smiling again]

SH:               Your Grace, you seem very friendly. Shall we have some  girl talk? [wearily] Yes, I know, anachronism…

Authors Note; The full text of Robert Browning’s fascinating and brilliant dramatic poem can be found on:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Last_Duchess

 

A Spoof Gothic Historical Romance Episode

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now for some comic relief. Who’s for a Gothic historical romance, full of anachronisms (which the re-cycled characters know too well).

Scene: A castle in the wilds of Yorkshire, UK, on the moors.  Date – Regency

[ A darkly handsome and brooding man appears  at the bolt studded door holding a modern electric torch. Although it is October and there is a force eight gale blowing, he wears breeches but no shirt.]

Dastardly Duke:    Damn me! Where is the chit? She’s late.

[A footman appears. He, too, is dark and handsome. On seeing him, the Duke starts.]

Dastardly Duke:   Devil take me, not you!

Footman:     It ain’t my fault.  I’ve been demoted from being hero, see, for                  refusing to chase after the heroine after I packed her off,  so  there  wasn’t a Happy Ever After. The punishment was to be a wretched servant. So you’ve been promoted from Dashing Villain to hero? Well, in this story, there ain’t much difference. It’s not fair. I’m better looking than you, too.

Dastardly Duke: I can soon remedy that, you whoreson. I always hated your damned smug face and uneering aim with your flintlocks when you were the Earl of Darlington.  [Makes to seize him, but a sudden flash and jolt makes him drop the torch; the bulb goes out. He lets out a terrible oath] Ouch!

Footman:  [Addressing the sky) Is that the best he can do for foul
language? That’s the punishment for an anachronism in Historical Romances, Your Grace. New rules.

Dastardly Duke:   Go down to the wine cellar and fetch me some strong
liquor, curse you for a miserable, low born rogue.85px-Man's_coat_and_vest_with_metal-thread_embroidery_c._1800

Footman:  We’re out of tallow candles.

Dastardly Duke:  Then you’ll have to go down in the dark, and if you happen to slip in the dark and break your low born neck, what care I!

Footman:   Come to think of it, I don’t care either. The sooner I get to the end of this one, the better. Maybe by the next story, I’ll be allowed to be the Heroine’s Hopeless Admirer or her rakish brother instead of a mere commoner…[Goes off]

Dastardly Duke:  Do I hear horses hooves? Yes, it’s the Heroine
arriving at last. Hmm. I wonder who they’ve sent me? To tell the truth, ha, ha!
I’d like a voluptuous doormat by way of a change from these sharp tongued hoydenish redheads who’re the fashion these days. I haven’t had a Doormat Heroine in years, and that sort was such fun for a sadist like me. [Looks about almost nervously] Well, the term hasn’t been invented when this story’s set, even if old de Sade had been at it,  but I’m talking off camera, or microphone, as it were…And yes, I know they hadn’t been invented either.

[The Ducal carriage appears, accompanied by a roll of distant thunder. The Duke moves, with lithe, almost feline grace down the steps to hand down the heroine when the footman opens the door.]

Spirited Heroine:  Hello, there! Sorry, anachronism. Good morrow, Your Grace. I fear you must have interrupted your toilette, to be gracious enough to greet me, for you wear no shirt.Unless you’ve lost it from your back through desperate gambling.

Dastardly Duke: [ Sourly] No. I’m never gracious. That was just for the cover. Do you think I enjoy standing about half naked in this cursed climate? [Lets out another terrible oath as he takes a closer look at her.] Don’t say it is that awful six foot redhead with the smart repartee? Hell and damnation, it is.

Spirited Heroine:  Well, I can’t say I’m exactly ecstatic to see you, either. No matter; we’ll be falling in love before we are halfway through the book [here they are interrupted by one of the horses speaking before they are taken on to the stables].

Horse:  Can’t I have a foaming jug of ale?

Spirited Heroine  Lud!

Dastardly Duke;  &*^&&^(!!!!!!

Coachman:   He’s been doing that all the way from the coaching
house, Your Grace. It seems he was one of those
abusive heroes with the –ahem – I don’t like to say
in front of the young lady – ‘bruising kisses’ and
worse, back in the 1970’s, and so he’s been paying
his debt to the Romance Society ever since they went
out of fashion.120px-Ds_of_M

Spirited Heroine:  Is that so? [Rushes forward} The swine! Give me that whip!

Dastardly Duke:  [Catches her arm]  No, Miss Er, I can’t allow you to flog a dumb animal.

Horse:  We Alphas must stick together. Anyway, who’s a dumb animal? [Neighs piteously at a sudden flash and jolt] Ow! That hurt! That’s so unkind. Abusers need love, too…[The coachman cracks his whip and sets them off towards the stables].

Dastardly Duke:  Well, shall we get on with it? So, you are the new governess. I hope you won’t find it too lonely in this isolated spot, with only a grim widower for company, and a few retainers.

Spirited Heroine:   [Helping him on with his shirt] Not at all, Your Grace. I like the country. Besides, the handsome renumeration you offer, merely for the coaching of two small daughters …

[More distant thunder]

More Next Week…