Monday, March 16, 2015

observe Glossin's body lying doubled across the iron bar, in a posture that excluded all idea of his being alive

No kidding, Walter, I say in reference to the line I cribbed for the title of this post.

I finished Walter Scott's 1815 novel Guy Mannering last night, the last fifty pages being essentially a tying up of loose ends and a final working out of all the plot threads. The heroes have been heroic, the heroines brave and pretty if essentially otherwise useless, the villains have been villainous but are now all dead after having been publicly stripped of whatever false honor they may have been cloaked in, etc. Nothing--absolutely nothing--that happens in the last fifty or seventy pages of this novel comes as a surprise, except possibly the level of violence. Still, anyone who's read Dickens or Shakespeare will have seen more implausible denouements and higher body counts, so all's well that ends well. Scott pulls the ending of his story around to bookend the beginning:
Bertram here produced a small velvet bag, which he said he had worn round his neck from his earliest infancy, and which he had preserved, first from superstitious reverence, and latterly from the hope that it might serve one day to aid in the discovery of his birth. The bag, being opened, was found to contain a blue silk case, from which was drawn a scheme of nativity. Upon inspecting this paper, Colonel Mannering instantly admitted it was his own composition; and afforded the strongest and most satisfactory evidence that the possessor of it must necessarily be the young heir of Ellangowan, by avowing his having first appeared in that country in the character of an astrologer.
Highly unlikely, Walter. Highly unlikely. My next book by Scott, I think, will be Waverly, his first novel. I don't know when I'll read it. I have a lot of other books sitting in the way. I don't know which of them I'll pick up tonight.

Also finished this weekend was the short story "The Snow Storm," part of my novel-in-progress Antosha in Prague. I am very close to being done with the first draft of that novel. I'm writing the penultimate story at present, and the ultimate story is almost finished as well (I started that one months and months ago). My plan is to have this draft wrapped up by Friday, see if I don't. And then, thank Heaven, I won't have to think about this book for quite some time, and you, my imaginary readers, won't have to read about it again. Luck for all.


  1. I wish you well in your week of writing, but I remain envious since the muse has never introduced herself to me, so I have no writing to complete. (And I think I will take a pass on Scott's novel.)

    1. Tim, the writing's going well, thanks! I do not have a muse, so I have to do all the work myself, but that builds character.

      Guy Mannering is a good book! I was expecting it to end the way it does, so I'm not disappointed. Scott provides an excellent middle, and I read for middles.

      Good luck with your physician. Drive safely!

  2. This suggests that Scott novels vary more in plausibility and level of violence than I had realized. Having a proof of identity be an astrological chart is a pretty good joke.

    1. It's a nice touch: the most frivolous item in the story becomes the key to the hero's restitution. The first time the "small velvet bag" is even mentioned is when Brown/Bertram produces it a couple of pages before the end of the novel. "Oh, I seem to have this. Does it strike anyone as important?"

      There's another funny scene where Evil Lawyer Glossin points out that Lord Ellangowan is known to have produced a bastard son, and claims that Brown is that bastard. "Oh, you mean this guy," the Good Lawyer Pleydell says, then reaches into the background to draw forth the actual bastard son, who just happens to be in town that day. The plot rolls forward on little wheels of coincidence like this.