Tuesday, 2 June 2015

"What a situation! I suggest it to the rising romance writers of England."

Escape from mental asylum, hindered love, mercenary marriage, eavesdropping, spying, stalking, theft, debts, illness, sedation, fraud, kidnapping, mistaken identities, heart attack, chase, violence, threats, scandal, document forgery, affair, illegitimacy, bribery, fire, death, secret political societies, espionage...
The Woman in White is a sensation novel. And it has not 1, not 2, but 4 secrets! 4! I read The Moonstone for the characters, not for the discovery of the moonstone; but I read The Woman in White for the secrets. It was like, okay now I knew the 1st secret, what about the 2nd one, got the 2nd secret, what about the 3rd on, and so on and so forth. 
Okay, no, not only that. I read it, and enjoy it, because of Count Fosco. 
Take this paragraph- Hartright's description:
"He carried his sixty years as if they had been fewer than forty. He sauntered along, wearing his hat a little on one side, with a light jaunty step, swinging his big stick, humming to himself, looking up from time to time at the houses and gardens on either side of him with superb, smiling patronage. If a stranger had been told that the whole neighbourhood belonged to him, that stranger would not have been surprised to hear it..." 
Now, Marian's description: 
"... Some of these he has left on the Continent, but he has brought with him to this house a cockatoo, two canary-birds, and a whole family of white mice. He attends to all the necessities of these strange favourites himself, and he has taught the creatures to be surprisingly fond of him and familiar with him. The cockatoo, a most vicious and treacherous bird towards every one else, absolutely seems to love him. When he lets it out of its cage, it hops on to his knee, and claws its way up his great big body, and rubs its top-knot against his sallow double chin in the most caressing manner imaginable. He has only to set the doors of the canaries' cages open, and to call them, and the pretty little cleverly trained creatures perch fearlessly on his hand, mount his fat outstretched fingers one by one, when he tells them to "go upstairs," and sing together as if they would burst their throats with delight when they get to the top finger. His white mice live in a little pagoda of gaily-painted wirework, designed and made by himself. They are almost as tame as the canaries, and they are perpetually let out like the canaries. They crawl all over him, popping in and out of his waistcoat, and sitting in couples, white as snow, on his capacious shoulders. He seems to be even fonder of his mice than of his other pets, smiles at them, and kisses them, and calls them by all sorts of endearing names. If it be possible to suppose an Englishman with any taste for such childish interests and amusements as these, that Englishman would certainly feel rather ashamed of them, and would be anxious to apologise for them, in the company of grown-up people. But the Count, apparently, sees nothing ridiculous in the amazing contrast between his colossal self and his frail little pets. He would blandly kiss his white mice and twitter to his canary-birds amid an assembly of English fox-hunters, and would only pity them as barbarians when they were all laughing their loudest at him." 
Isn't that fascinating?
And when he loses a mouse? He exclaims: 
"One, two, three, four——Ha! where, in the name of Heaven, is the fifth—the youngest, the whitest, the most amiable of all—my Benjamin of mice!"
Towards his wife: 
"He bows to her, he habitually addresses her as "my angel," he carries his canaries to pay her little visits on his fingers and to sing to her, he kisses her hand when she gives him his cigarettes; he presents her with sugar-plums in return, which he puts into her mouth playfully, from a box in his pocket. The rod of iron with which he rules her never appears in company—it is a private rod, and is always kept upstairs." 
See how those things fit his ruthless nature. 
Look at these lines from his narrative: 
"We both wanted money. Immense necessity! Universal want! Is there a civilised human being who does not feel for us? How insensible must that be! Or how rich!" 
"The scene was picturesque, mysterious, dramatic in the highest degree. [...] I bore my share of that inestimably precious burden with a manly tenderness, with a fatherly care. Where is the modern Rembrandt who could depict our midnight procession? Alas for the Arts! alas for this most pictorial of subjects! The modern Rembrandt is nowhere to be found."
"(Pass me, here, one exclamation in parenthesis. How interesting this is!)" 
"I turned manfully to the future." 
The title of this post is also a quote of the Count. 
What a villain! Next to him, Percival Glyde's so insipid. 
By the way, this is a picture of a cockatoo: 

And another:

Somehow, the image of a cockatoo goes so well with Count Fosco. The flamboyance, perhaps. 
Now that's a villain. Greatest character in The Woman in White. And more interesting than Godfrey Ablewhite*. We need characters like this.

*: The best characters in The Moonstone, in my opinion, are Miss Clack and Gabriel Betteredge. 

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