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…


More of the Dastardly Duke and the Spirited Heroine


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:



A Spoof Gothic Historical Romance Episode


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…

Spoof Sequel to Wuthering Heights; Heathcliff, Huntingdon, and Gambling for Grassdale Manor

wuthering heightsSetting: Wuthering Heights, the dining room . The table is laid for three. Joseph clumps about in his heavy boots, slopping unappetising looking porridge into bowls.

Arthur: Silence, fellow! Last night’s excess has overwrought my steely nerves. I can no more take that appalling din, than I endure to eat any of this filthy slop. Make me some coffee and be quick about it. Milk indeed; are we infants?

Joseph: [only daring to speak to himself under his breath] Are things come to this, that I, fifty years in this house, mun take orders from such a nought? [Aloud] Maister Heathcliff, am I to endure this?

Heathcliff: [even more darkly brooding than usual  this morning] Quiet, or I’ll  kick you out. Make some coffee and I’ll have some too. Be quick about it, or i’ll use your good books to stoke the fire.

Jospeh: Ah, wicked furren ways. Hareton, lad, sup thy milk in blessed innocence.

Hareton: I’ll have some too. [Jospeh goes out, lamenting ]

[Some minutes pass in grim silence]

Hareton,[to Heathcliff Did I hear knocking last night?

Heathcliff: Tha’ did, lad. A lass knocked on the door, and I sent her away into the wind and the rain. You know what I always say: ‘Let the worms writhe, I have no mercy’.

Arthur: [to himself] Just the sort of quip to set the table on a roar; this fellow’s a social lion.

Hareton: Nay, it weren’t right, if it were a lassie.

Arthur: You’re right, young sir. I should have spoken up for the wench, plain-looking though she was, but I was a trifle elevated. Here’s that old Pharisee with the coffee at last

[Enter Joseph] They drank all the wine and brandy I keep for t’good of my health and my old bones last night, and now they’re at my coffee. Sinful. Someone knocks. Mayhap, the devil himself.

Heathcliff; Just so long as its no more trespassers from other novels.

thHareton: If it’s that poor lass Jane Eyre, let her in this time.

Huntingdon: Damn me, I can’t stand this biblical cant over breakfast, when I’ve got to surmount last night’s excesses. My wife was bad enough for that, but at least she had didn’t have a face like that. I’ve seen happier looking ghouls. Young sir, what’s the best way to Wildfell Hall?

Hareton: I’ll put you on your way, Mr Huntingdon.

[Joseph returns] Maister Heathcliff, there’s two boxes of books out there, wi’ fair shocking covers, wi’ wenches a-flaunting their bosoms in indecent low gowns, wi’ their cheeks and lips looking fair painted, and t’wind a blowin’ their skirts above their ankles, and you with your shirt off, and a snarlin’ like our house dogs, and all called ‘Wuthering Heights. T’shame of it! That folks should credit such things go on here!

Hareton [hurries out] I must see this!

Huntingdon: A shame I’ve seen no such fine wenches here. Why anyone would choose to write about this damned sorry place, is beyond me. Now I’ll take my leave. I thank you for your hospitality. I believe I lost tuppence over the cards last night? As a debt of honour, I must pay that. [throws down coin]63daa92b710561d87498049b891eb71b

Heathclif: [hurls his marked cards down on the table in a rage] And I was dreaming of getting my hands on that Grassdale Manor of yours!

Huntingdon: Never mind, at least you have some reading matter more agreeable than ‘Torments in the Pitt (Extended Edition,  with Lurid Illustrations by Hironymous Bosche)’ and ‘One Thousand Reflections for a Sinner’. [Exit]

Hieronymus Bosch - Hell 2

Heathcliff Meets Huntingdon and Jane Eyre: Wuthering Heights Spoof Sequel Part Two

thSetting: Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff and Arthur Huntingdon now sit at the table in the great room with the ‘houseplace’ and the great fire, decidedly the worse for drink. Both clutch a pack of marked cards.

Joseph and Hareton go along the passageway outside, making for the stairs.

Joseph: ‘Tis fair shocking. I’m afeered t’upstart maister is behaving as he did in t’auld days when he strived to take this house from its rightful maister. Worse. For I’ve heard him laugh out loud. A fair sin and a shame I call it. I’m to my bed in t’attic with my bedtime reading: ‘The Hideous Sufferings of the Damned in The Lake of Burning Fire, and How the Elect Chuckle to See It’. That day can’t coom soon enough, I reckon, for t’gentry in there.

Hareton: Well, I’ll not join ‘em; I’ve got a full days’ work tomorrow. I’ll smoke my pipe in bed (starts upstairs; pauses:) Joseph?

Joseph: What, lad?

Hareton: Dust eever think that there might be more to life than this?

Joseph: Why, nay lad; never. What more could theere be?

Hareton: (casts around in his mind) Well…

Joseph: You see; idle nowts of fancies put in thy mind by the fiend himself. Beware! You’ll be thinking o’ nasty flauntin’ queens next.

(They are halfway up the stairs before Hareton suddenly stops) Fun!

Joseph (drawing back) What?!

Hareton: Fun. I vaguely mind me we had some o’ that now and ageen, in t’auld days. wuthering heights

Joseph: Don’t be daft, lad. I’ve never had any fun in night on seventy year, and its never done me any harm.

(Hareton remains silent: Joseph sighs and groans about idle thoughts as they clump up to bed.)

Huntingdon: (aside) This sneaking fellow may well scheme to get his hands on my property with his pack of marked cards, having used that trick before. But he shan’t fool me as he did that pathetic fool, Hindley Earnshaw. I’ve got my own pack of marked cards, and few have a more seasoned head than I.

Heathcliff: (slurring) Don’t tell me you usuhally drink like thish. You musht be a confirmed drunkard. Maybe worshe than Hindley.

Huntingdon: No, I’m a gentleman, and believe in good living. Damn me, d’you usually take your meals with that sour faced old bible spouter? No wonder you’ve got no joie de vivre. If I was you, I’d throw him out, closely followed by his good books.wuthering heights

Heathcliff: She and I did that onshe, wit’ his blashted good booksh, and laughed ourshelves sick. (struck) Can’t remember when lasht I laughed.

Huntingdon (appalled) What type of melancholy excuse for an existence is thish? (aside) This wine is getting even to my seasoned head. I’m starting to slur like him.

(The wind howls eerily about the isolated farmhouse. A tap on the window)63daa92b710561d87498049b891eb71b

Heathcliff: Damn! Whosh there? (Another tap)

Heathcliff: Can it be Her at last?

(A wailing sound)

Huntingdon (uses many maledictions) Seeing you won’t see who it is, I suppose I must. (goes to the window and flings back the curtain) There’s nobody there.

A female voice: Oh yes, there is!

Huntingdon: (peers downwards through the darkness) Damn me, it’s some plain faced woman no bigger than a well grown child. Wait a minute, I’ve heard of you! You’ve lost your way; you belong in another novel.

Jane Ere’s voice: Ah, I have been forced to flee my master, who offered me a bigamous marriage and wicked temptations. But I feel no temptation to stay in the company of either of you. I must go on to the River’s household.

Heathcliff (rushes to the window with terrible imprecations) What d’you mean by raising my hopes, you miserable slut? Get out of it, before I set the dogs on you! You’re the sixth character from another novel come here in a week!

Huntingdon: (returning to the table and removing a couple of cards from his sleeve): Anyway, she isn’t handsome enough to tempt me.

Heathcliff: (visibly paling) Silence! You know who said that! The last thing we want is Mr Darcy calling in!

The credits roll up. Voiceover: What will happen next? Don’t miss the next installment of ‘Huntingdon Meets Heathcliff’.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ Protagonists and Antagonists and More Farce

Clarissa and LovelaceCaricature-1780-press_gangLucinda Elliot, ascending platform:

OK, so I am back again after escaping the clutches of that press gang in that time warp occasioned by my last post; here I am, restored to being a blogger sitting at my pc and typing up a geeky post and planning on making a cup of tea…

On protagonists and antagonists in ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ then –(glances nervously about; no sign of anyone in old fashioned dress in the cyber hall). I have bored on about this before a fair amount.

Why does Gaskell have two male leads, and unsatisfactory ones at that, both a bit too inclined to the stereotypical, though in opposite ways? Why is one a cardboard hero type, one his shadow image?

It is almost as if Gaskell had drawn up a balance sheet and listed qualities on either side of it for Kinraid (clearly meant to be Sylvia’s notion of her ideal man) and Hepburn, something like this: –

Credit and Debit

Kinraid  (credit) Handsome

Hepburn (debit) Plain

Kinraid (credit) Recklessly brave

Hepburn (debit) Cautious

Kinraid  (credit) Sociable

Hepburn (debit) Withdrawn

Kinraid (questionable credit) Womaniser

Hepburn (debit) Invisible to women

Kinraid (credit) Jolly life and soul of the party

Hepburn (debit) Wallflower

Kinraid (credit) Raconteur

Hepburn (debit) Can’t tell a tale to
save his life

Philip Hepburn, then, is (in so far as past centuries understood these terms) totally uncool and a complete nerd.

And so on, with Hepburn’s only plus points being:

Kinraid  Light minded (debit)

Hepburn Serious and some (questionable credit)

Kinraid Reputation for fickleness (debit)

Hepburn Unswervingly constant (credit)

These latter qualities are the ones that swing it for Hepburn with Sylvia in the end and lead to their reconciliation on his deathbed.

Here, however, I don’t want to explore that (general sighs of relief from small cyber audience impressed into cyber room). I’ve done that often enough in past posts)  – but the question of why Gaskell, having posed the problem of having two opposing male leads, then went on to develop Philip Hepburn enough for him to come alive in the reader’s eyes, and left Charley Kinraid an oddly unrealised character.

12618f13I personally do not find Hepburn’s protestant ethic oriented, sexually repressed and grimly humourless persona remotely congenial; but I do concede the author makes a good job of bringing the character to life in the author’s eyes. I find his silence about his rival’s impressment, and not passing on his love message to Sylvia, so dismal that I could never bring myself to like him, but again the author does a clever job of providing excuses for him (Kinraid’s reputation as a heartbreaker as related by Coulson, etc; Bessy Corney’s insistence that she was engaged to him at the same time that he became engaged to Syvia, etc).

Graham Handley comments: –

‘Seen in terms of depths and sympathy, Philip is Kinraid’s superior on every count. It must be admitted that the amount of space devoted to each is uneven, and that we know and live with Philip as we do not know and live with Kinraid; we see Kinraid, his tenderness and his heartiness, his stance and his impact, from the outside. We share Philip’s reactions, temptations, frustrations, anguish and later physical agony from the inside.’

This is the crux of the problem. Philip Hepburn is given vivid life through internalisation; Charley Kinraid is not.

This might be because, as Jane Spencer suggests, the whaler is not cerebral or given much to original thought anyway (even if he can spin a fine yarn), so that Gaskell does not think his mental processes would be of much interest to the reader.

Or it may be, as Graham Handley suggests in his excellent ‘Oxford Notes’ on the novel, because mystery, about his motivations, history and his thought processes ends an element of fascination to the character: –

‘His colourful appeal is more important than the qualities of his mind…Gaskell does not give him depth; what she does do, with tamtalizing art, is to leave us always in doubt about him.
Nothing stimulates an interest in character so much as mystery; the mystery of half knowing the characters we meet. Is Kinraid’s reputation justified? Is Sylvia the real love of his life? Is he, in fact, a man whose eye is always on the main chance? His career, and advantageous marriage, would tend to reinforce this view…’

John MacVicar (the literary critic, not the ancient villain) suggests that Charley Kinraid was in fact Elizabeth Gaskell’s original hero, as is indicated by the fact her original title was ‘The Specksioneer’ but that her focus of interest changed over time (especially as it took her an unusually long time to write this novel; perhaps so much as three and a half years) to Philip Hepburn, the original antagonist.

As nobody who reads this blog can fail to know, I find this novel particularly fascinating for many reasons; but it is also intriguing as one where the antagonist has in fact, taken over through having too strong a voice.

I know from my own experience that giving the antagonist too vivid a voice can be a danger.highwayman_body

While I make no claims to have depicted in the antagonist of my spoof historical romance ‘Ravensdale’ as vivid an antagonist as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Philip Hepburn, I did, nevertheless, depict his consciousness.

This was partly because I found the motivation of pure greed of so many of the villains of historical romances using the clichéd theme I satirized – Wild Young Viscount is framed for murderer by machinations of a Conniving Cousin and next in line to an Earldom –-unsatisfactory; why shouldn’t unrequited love play a part, battling with envy?

But, here I encountered a problem; a number of readers tell me that they find my antagonist Edmund Ravensdale, despite his duplicitous behaviour, more sympathetic, precisely because they had access to his thoughts as they did not for those of the frequently insensitive but generally straightforward and open-hearted Reynaud Ravensdale.

There is of course, that cliché , ‘to know all is to forgive all’. This is fascinating food for thought.

End of Sane Bit of Post: Now for some absurdity…

[A familiar figure in eighteenth century naval captain’s uniform enters at the back of the hall.]

Lucinda Elliot [Turns, outraged]: Well, would you credit it! Here’s that Charley Kinraid back again. After I had ripped his character to shreds last week. Some of these fictitious creations have got an incredible nerve!..[waxes thoughtful].But in line with ‘To know all is to forgive all’ come and have that tot of rum…

Charley Kinraid: Now, that is more civil, I’ll take that kindly… And what’s more, so will t’other Seven Most Annoying Heroes you used such hard words of in yon post, namely: – Georgette Heyer’s  Marquis Vidal, Mary Renault’s Theseus, James Bond, Heathcliff, Charles Garvice’s Heriot Fayne, Viscount of Somewhere I’ve Forgotten and not forgetting Georgette Heyer’s Ludovic Lavenham, Earl of Somewhere Else…Rinaldo in pub

James Bond: Bond, James Bond, 0000007 [I’m in semi-retirement].

Theseus [strides in, followed by half a dozen adoring war prizes]: By the Great Lord Zeus, not a robber left on the Corinth Peninsula.

Heathcliff [goes over to kick in window to make the decor resemble that at Wuthering Heights] Curse it all, I have no pity! Let the worms writhe!

Vidal: Damme, by Hell and the Devil! A Plague Take Me! What was I saying? Clean forgot what I was saying…Many hands make light work, mayhap?

Ludovic Lavenham: [shoots out lights in chandelier] Whose for a game of cards? [throws down talisman ring]

Heriot Fayne: I’ll play in the dark. Give me a gargle of whisky…What am I saying? I promised What’s-her-name – the heroine in my book, that’s right, Eva –-I’d reform.

Lucinda Elliot [shouting over racket]: I can only apologise to the reader for these continual interruptions; normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Some Complete Madness: A Post Interrupted by Progatonist(s) and Antagonist(s) from Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’.

Caricature-1780-press_gangLucinda Elliot: Here I go on to discuss the issue of the role of the ‘Protagonist and Antagonist in Elizaeth Gaskell’s ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’. I warn you, when I get started on one of my favourite topics I go and on, so this post will probably stretch into three…

[The last words are shouted above the noise of scraping sounds as cyber chairs are shoved back and not particularly huge group that constitutes the audience votes with their feet.]

Lucinda Elliot: Is anyone still with me?

Reader (pauses in doorway) Nobody sane, anyway (leaves, shaking head in disbelief).

[Lucinda Elliot spies three remaining people in curiously old-fashioned dress at the back of the cyber hall. These are a fine handsome naval officer with dark hair almost in ringlets who flashes his white teeth in a friendly smile, a plain-looking and rather drooping man of the respectable shopkeeper type, and a female figure shrouded in a heavy veil].

Lucinda Elliot: Kinraid, I give you fair notice I won’t speak as your friend any more than as Philip Hepburn’s. By the way, that’s a pinch from Dobbin’s speech to Becky Sharp in ‘Vanity Fair’.

Kinraid (still smiling) I’m well aware of that, Ma’am. You will say that I am a shallow opportunist. You will argue that as a naval captain, I must of necessity have in my later meteoric naval career have colluded with the press-gang I once so violently opposed.
You will point out that: ‘In the French Revolutionary Wars,  it was often impossible for a ship to leave port without the captain having recourse to the press-gang, and as has been demonstrated by the research done for the ‘Hornblower’ novels, it was often equally impossible for the captain to be scrupulous about keeping to its legal requirements.’

You will go on to say that as Speksioneer of the ‘Good Fortune’ , I reputedly shot dead two press-gang members – by the by, that’s reputedly, Ma’am; I made no confession; as you know.  – You will point out that  I only escaped hanging for that through being ‘kicked aside for dead’. (winces at the memory).

You will then say my defenders must admit either that I was right to shoot them then, but wrong to collude with them as a Captain later, or that I was right to collude with them later and wrong to shoot them down then, but I cannot have been right on both occasions, as the press-gang invariably acted outside the terms of it’s legal remit. Am I right?

Lucinda Elliot: You are, mate. Then with regard to your supposed faithfulness to Sylvia during your three years’ absence at sea –

Kinraid: (suddenly notices the woman in veils huddled in the corner). Eh, yon’s not my missus Clarinda?

(The woman throws back her heavy veils.)

Kinraid and Hepburn (speaking for once, as one): Sylvia!!!

Sylvia: I think yon talkative female is right, for all her long words, and you both treated me ill. I didn’t know that about yon naval captain’s winking at the doings of the press-gang, Charley – I mean, Captain Kinraid, and I’m glad as I didn’t marry you to find that out later.

Kinraid (aside) Damn my eyes, but that’s fair saucy.

Hepburn: Ah, Sylvie. I made thee my idol. But thou made yon fickle, false Kinraid thine (glances at his watch). Time to count the takings in yon haberdashery.

Lucinda Elliot: Sit down, now you’re here.

Kinraid: (in a loud whisper) Yon females is main and grouchy. That comes of letting them out from under your thumb (to Sylvia). I don’t see how I used you ill, lass, I was faithful to you for the three years I was at sea after the press-gang took me.

Lucinda Elliot: I can easily disprove that feeble assertion.

Kinraid (starts guiltily) What? Ma’am, you can prove nothing. Yon author Mistress Gaskell  wrote my character too fause ever to be tied down, except by the press-gang, never by readers. The evidence about my womanizing is hearsay. The evidence that I’m a murderer is hearsay. I just happened to fall in love with a pretty heiress,but what then? That was just luck, and I made her money as came to me fair and square over to her, so you can’t even prove I’m a fortune hunter. It all comes along  o’ being on a whaler called ‘The Good Fortune’  amd gave me  t’luck that pulled me though that day I heroically confronted yon press-gang (glances at Sylvia) and  that luck was with me e’er after.

Lucinda Elliot: You wouldn’t exactly have had shore leave as an impressed man, in case you made off. After you were promoted to warrant officer for good behaviour, you volunteered to go on that raid with Sir Sidney Smith, were taken prisoner, and kept in a French prison for two years until one Monsieur Phillipeux helped you to escape. I don’t see how you’d have had much opportunity to be anything but faithful, given the circumstances, if one closely follows the dates given.
It is true that no sooner had you reached the UK – now promoted to Lieutenant by Smith in gratitude – than you took off to see the girl you had left behind you only to learn you had been deceived and Hepburn, witness to your impressment, had kept it secret

(Hepburn sinks his head in his hands) .

Lucinda Elliot (kindly): Well, there’s no need to go through that painful, climatic scene of the novel again…I’ve always wondered, Kinraid; whatever made you think that ‘your Admiral’ could get you a divorce for Sylvia? A few decades later, even King Georges IV failed to get a divorce.

Sylvia (goes from being a ‘pale, tragic figure’ to being ‘as red as any rose’): Yon fause sod was after my body. His face was ‘all crimson with passion’.

Kinraid (clearly mortified): ‘Tis only a man’s nature, and little enough shore leave to socialize with suchlike amenable wenches as Newcastle Bess, Ma’am, if you take my meaning, you having a post Freudian understanding denied to the women of our own age.


Lucinda Eliot: I fully appreciate the extent of your libido…Then, you married the heiress Clarinda Jackson not eight months after this dramatic meeting.

Kinraid (looks intolerably smug) Love at fist sight(glances at Sylvia); on her side, anyway.

Sylvia: You forgot me in no time, for all you said as you’d marry none but me.

Kinraid (aside) :  Well, yo’  has t’give t’lasses a bit o’ nonsense…

Hepburn (raises face from hands): Sylvie, I made thee my idol. If I had my life to live o’er, I’d worship my maker more, and thee less, and never come to sin such a sin against thee.

Lucinda Elliot: I daresay. Well,  the poor girl made an idol out of Charley Kinraid. I suppose that’s why she got punished so severely, given Elizabeth Gaskell’s Christian perspective. That and her refusal to forgive Hepburn for so long.  You know what I say in my review of the novel –

Hepburn: You were facetious on the topic, and it won’t do. You said, ‘Philip Hepburn worships Sylvia Robson, and finds dishonour; Sylvia Robson worships Charley Kinraid, and finds disillusionment; Charley Kinraid worships himself, and finds a wife who agrees with him and a career in the Royal Navy’.

Kinraid (waves finger admonishingly) Naughty, Ma’am.  You’ve been serving an honest sailor a scurvy turn in a-going about yon web, spreading lies about me most assiduous.

Lucinda Elliot: Well, I thought it was a good enough way of summing up a plot in a sentence. By the way, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my disgust with the whaling industry and the near extinction of the Greenland whale as a result (the others look uncomprehending).

Kinraid: She speaks more kindly of them savage fish than she does o’me. Typical o’ that sort of female, and no reasoning with them (begins to whistle ‘Wheel May the Keel Row’) Anyone care to watch me doing the hornpipe(begins to dance the hornpipe).

Sylvia:  He is in fine spirits; it takes a deal to ruin t’ life of a man, but ah! I was let down by men as I trusted, and had no help for it.

Lucinda Elliot: You must leave Bella with Hester Rose, and go for a sailor,  and have some adventures yourself. But – (seeing a spark in Kinraid’s eye) not on his ship.

Hepburn: Ignore such ungodly talk. Women was meant to stay at home and wait on us.

Kinraid (still doing hornpipe) :True enough,and it were a fair saucy thing to say out against me, but I don’t care a hang. Ma’am. You can’t pin anything on me, though you did a blog post and had my name down as number six in your ‘Most Annoying Heroes’. Fancy, putting my name down along o’ the likes of Heathcliff.

Lucinda Elliot (struck with an idea) He comes from Yorkshire! You could have one of your press gangs impress him. Now, that would be a fitting fate.

Kinraid (continuing to dance): I wouldn’t have the likes of him on my ship. Thieves and murderers yes, but not that fellow (glances at Sylvia) . Er –and I don’t have to do with them sneaking press gangs, anyhow. I’m the hero who won your love by resisting them, remember, my pretty?

Sylvia (tosses her head with a return of some of her old spirits) I don’t care if you do, Mr Clarinda Jackson. I see all t’gossip about you was right at the end of t’ day. No doubt it’s true about you jilting Anne Coulson and being troth plighted to Bessy Courney at the same time as me, too.

Kinraid (still dancing):  Yon Mistress Elliot has been filling your head with lies about me, and I won’t  admit to any of t’ calumny. Vulgar gossip, that’s what it is.   I’m boldly defiant, just like I was when I stood over them hatches to protect me crew from press-gang and shot down and near killed. Dost ta not remember how you worshipped me from yon heroic deed? (to  Lucinda Elliot) Have you got any rum, Ma’am? I’m getting main and thirsty.

Hepburn: Well, I was heroic too; I saved his life at the Battle of Acre, and then our daughter’s, too. And it wasn’t very nice being blown up in that explosion.

Lucinda Elliot: We must have some order (hears a knock at the door).
Who’s that?

[Press gang enter, waving clubs] Press gang leader:  We’re allowed to take women now,and we’ve come for these two. Mouthy couple of women, let ’em live up to all their talk of going to sea and learn their lesson. And that writer one’s a Jacobin. Ought to be made to serve King and country.

Hepburn: Oh, no, that’s not right, though that Mistress Elliot is fair unwomanly with that outspoken talk. Take me instead, though I’ve taken the King’s Shilling already.

Kinraid (stops dancing): Quick, down cyber hold and I’ll stand over yon cyber hatches and shoot ‘em down if they come near!

Dim witted looking press-gang member: Captain Kinraid, we’ll follow your orders, and only fire blanks at you.

Lucinda Elliot: Well, after this piece of madness, and if I haven’t been impressed into the French Revolutionary Wars through a time warp, my next post will be about the one I intended for this week, on how in Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Sylvia’s Lovers’ the protagonist and antagonist came to swap places…Aagh1! (leaps out of cyber window, followed by press gang).

A Round Robin from Kenrick

Dracula climbing down the wall of his castle, from a 1916 edition of the work.
Dracula climbing down the wall of his castle, from a 1916 edition of the work.

220px-Renoir23I, Goronwy Kenrick, receive so much of what you moderns call in your rebarbative parlance ‘fan mail’ that I feel I must reply ; yet, having no spare time (and that in itself is ironic, in view of my experiments with time, ha, ha!) I am taking advantage of another vulgar modern idea – the Round Robin. Humph!

I will discount the absurd prejudices of some of my correspondents , who have accepted, unquestioningly, the lurid and prejudiced account of my activities to be found in the guise of sensationalist literature – ‘That Scoundrel Emile Dubois’ by some insolent and frankly immodest female called Lucinda Elliot (really, we kept the matters of the bedroom shrouded in discreet silence in my day).

Yes, if some female readers are so sadly misguided as to regard that French ruffian Dubois as some sort of romantic figure – I have only to say that it was dire necessity alone which compelled me to usher through my front doors a former cut throat from the gutters of Paris.

A disgusting fellow, I assure you, fond of a vulgar brawl and loutishly blunt, accusing me of practicing blackmail upon him – and unable – Heh Heh – as I have had occasion to remark elsewhere, to keep his hands for long either off the public’s pockets or off their wives, either. His boor of a lackey was even worse – my own milling manservant Arthur Williams being an upright citizen in comparison.

What was I saying, my good people? Ah, yes, fan mail. I have just accidentally read a communication that has put me out of temper – an insolent scrawl referring to me, if you please, as ‘creepy’ and ‘flesh crawling’.

It even goes on to suggest that I am ‘dirty minded’.

I, ever the prize romantic ? I would have the writer of that contemptible missive know, that I only ever loved one woman – my wife!

Yes, that parvenu Heathcliff – created, I believe, circa 1848 – cannot compete with me as a Byronic hero. No, indeed. I not only loved one woman, and mourned her death with passionate devotion, but I have tried to subvert time to achieve reunion. Did that vulgar, porridge eating Yorkshire farmer stretch his imagination so far?

Oh yes, it is true, I remarried – but love was never in question in that match. We both wanted the same thing – reunion with a lost loved one; I knew Madam Ceridwen would be useful in furthering my aims. further, I will admit, I do enjoy watching the effect of the second Mrs Kenrick’s beauty on foolish young males (like Dubois, only a month married, dear me!).

Heh, Heh.

Dubois’ little wife was something of a peach – blonde and curvaceous as she was. I cannot imagine what she saw in the ruffian, apart from as a means of escape from her tedious life as a Dowager’s companion.

I once found myself having arrived quite by accident in her bedroom. Well, not quite by accident – I had heard she had a sore throat that day, and I had just remembered an infallible cure for the same – but that foolish Earl of Ruthin had made her drink some – some – a drink made of – gar – garlic, that most disgusting of herbs. Weak at the knees, I had to retreat, my handsome face haggard with distress.

I make no doubt even that fleeting glimpse of me, my well modelled mouth ready for a kiss, roused a flutter in her tender bosom, though.

Damn me, I am called away. I must needs ask my many admirers to wait until the next post – Ha! Ha! – to satisfy their longing to hear more from me and to sign off as your own
Goronwy Kenrick
Vampire, Inventor and Mathematical Genius

Patrick Hamilton’s dark humour.

A number of readers have said how in my story ‘That Scoundrel Emile Dubois’ they enjoyed my facetious use of capitals to emphasize certain phrases (there are probably many who did NOT enjoy it, but never mind about that).

I borrowed the idea from a famous writer and playwright of the early part of the twentieth century, Patrick Hamilton, though I am sure other writers have used versions of it .

I remember reading ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ (not quite such early reading for me as ‘The Queen of Spades’ or ‘Carmela’ but in my teens, anyway) and being delighted by the dark humour that pervades that story.

Patrick Hamilton’s own life was to some extent tragic, though he achieved so much as a writer.

Born into an upper middle class background with an overbearing father who took out his frustrated authoritarian tendencies on his wife and family, Patrick and his beloved brother Bruce retained scars from their childhood all their lives. Patrick slipped early into alcoholism, tormented by and a horror of life, which he feared was meaningless.

His success came early, in his twenties, and he went on to write the fascinating trilogy depicting isolation in the London of the late nineteen twenties ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’.

His masterpieces, however, are ‘Hangover Square’ (from the preface to which I learned the poem ‘The Light of Other Days’) and ‘The Slaves of Solitude’.

Looking for a creed in which to believe, he became a communist. Bitterly disillusioned by the exposure of Stalin’s dictatorship and the degeneration of the buoyant hopes of a better world which supported so many through terrible war against Nazism into a society based on consumerism, he became a sad and backward looking figure. For the last few years of his life he was hardly able to write at all.

That wonderful sense of the darkly comic aspects of life, of the delightful absurdities to be encountered every day, of the pathos and bathos of life are unique.

I’d like to quote from ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ here, where the dreadful boarding house bully, Mr Thwaites, is ridiculously drunk following Christmas dinner in the local pub (the date is 1942).

‘”Methinks it Behoveth me’, said Mr Thwaites, ‘To taketh me unto my mansion. Doth it not? Peradventure? Perchance?”
“Yes,” said the Lieutenant. “Come along the. Get a move on.”…
“Come along Mr Thwaites.” said Vicki (the vulgar, Hitler admierer who coquettishly who encourages his advances).
“Ah, the Beauteous Dame.” said Mr Thwaites. “The beauteous damsel that keepeth me on tenterhooks.”
“Come on then,” said the Lieutenant. “Take my arm.”
“Hooks. Tenter One.” said Mr Thwaites. “See Inventory.”
“Aw, come on, will you?” said the Lieutenant.
“Damsel, Beauteous, One.” said Mr Thwaites.”Hooks, Tenter, Two. Yea, Verily.”…
“April, too.” said Mr Thawaites. “Thirty days hath November.”
At this he lurched forward, and the Lieutenant caught him…”‘

This book, which deals with a microcosm of the menace of fascism during the huge theatre of World War Two, ends with what I consider a truly inspired phrase from this most irreligious of writers.
‘God help us, God help all of us, Every one, all of us.’

Marty Sue’s and Adrians, too…


It has sometimes occurred to me, apropos romantic heroes who are always dashing and macho, Byronic and Brooding and in charge – that it is strongly connected the question of the Male Mary Sue.

A Mary Sue is of course, a heroine or other female character who is good at everything and desired and admired by everybody.While author’s obviously ought to be aware of creating this absurdity in portraying an admirable and competent female, I gather that there has been such a fear of creating a Mary Sue heroine that women authors particularly have tended to go to opposite extremes, so that their heroine always gets the worst of the exchanges with the hero, etc…There unfotunately does seem to have been a certain return to the female protagonist who places her fate trustingly in the hands of the male…

Yet, there seems to be far less of a fear in creating a male equivalent of a Mary Sue. I gather that such a character is known as a ‘Marty Sue’ but I heard somewhere that a good term would be an ‘Adrian’. That sounds a good idea to me.

You know how it is with this type of hero; not only do all the men admire him, but every women goes weak at the knees at the sight of him.He’s usually a hard drinker, but he never falls on his face, and if he’s a gambler, then no amount of drinking will make him lose at cards.

Whatever misfortunes may plague him, he will rise above them, for he is, above all, a Leader of Men…He’s programmed to rise to the top. It’s a sort of physical law, like a cork popping up.

Presumably, this magnetic quality applies even if when he isn’t looking his best and his breath must certainly be off after a night of carousing. But these heroes, of course, never have bad breath, let alone hangovers; their mouth has an automatic self cleansing facility. I have commented already upon the complete absence of the vomiting reflux amongst such heroes, even when in a high fever. They also have a self cleaning utility for their noses, which never run.

Should one of these men be thrown into a deepest dungeon, they wouldn’t smell after six months without a bath, though their breeches might become a little ragged about the knees. They would practice fortitude, because that is the way that they have been programmed.

I suppose Sir Lancelot, pictured above, rescuing Guinevere, is an early example of this type of hero, and he has a long series of followers…

I have also wondered what would happen should a gang of these over achievers come together. It would certainly be difficult if there was only one pretty girl in the room, as who would she choose? Perhaps she would fall in love with all of them at once, suffer sensory overload, rush from the room, and fall down in a swoon.

If, after a session of carousing, they decided on some cards, who would win? Perhaps all of them at once. What would they talk about? Maybe nothing at all. They might all remain Mysteriously Aloof and Strong and Silent. T hey don’t do Mouthing Off either.
‘A slow evening, Mr B…’ Sir Lancelot would comment.
‘Slow no more, Sir. A host of dragons have begun terrorising the area, and one has just set fire to Lovelace’s’ breeches. Did you see the cad sneak out after cheating all evening? I didn’t like to speak of it, because that would be Whinging, and we don’t Do Whining.This was conflict for me, and my circuits began to overload,as we Don’t Do Unassertiveness, either. I was torn between slapping his face and calling him out, and the fact that he is after all, cad though he is, One of Us and that can’t happen between us. ‘
‘Me, too, Mr B. I fear we all may need re-programming, for I felt my circuits overload, too. Ah, I must see to slaying those dragons – though I would have thought it was usually the ladies who had the affect of setting fire to Lovelace’s breeches.’
‘Mayhap he cheated the dragons at cards, too…’