Monday, January 13, 2014
Yelling in a Hayfield
I hate to complain about anything in THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL but this character Fergus is a lot like the awful, precocious brats in some sitcoms, always coming up with thudding, smart-alecky one-liners. There's one scene where he's just yelling at a bunch of servants who are toiling in a hayfield, and the narrator (Fergus's older brother) is like, "Leaving him thus haranguing the people, more to their amusement than edification, I returned to the house..." And I was like, "Their amusement?" I imagine they wanted to wring his little neck. But I do love the narrator, who is always trying to convince us and himself that he is not a fop, or, as he just put it, "that I was not the empty-headed coxcomb she had first supposed me to be," and my sympathy for Anne Brontë is always restored by the weird, prim snottiness of the scholarly footnotes in this edition, which seem unnecessarily hard on her ("The author awakens intermittently to the memory of the epistolary device," sniffs one). Here's a sentence from our narrator that tickled me, though: "'Nonsense!' ejaculated I." I like everything about it: the noun, the verb, the pronoun, the exclamation point, the order in which they are placed. It made me think of Tom Franklin's epigraph for his great novel SMONK, taken from Edgar Rice Burroughs: "'Magnifique!' ejaculated the Countess de Coude, beneath her breath."