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Monday, October 26, 2009

“I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul.”

Might there be some interesting resonance between the following two pithy accounts, in the first person, of the apparently powerful emotional experience of a male reader (with a famously satirical eye), upon reading a famous novel by a famous female author?

“The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days--my hair standing on end the whole time."

"Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone"


In particular, as a connoisseur of the various parts of the human head, such as skulls and hair, the mysteries I want answers to are these: at the precise moment when Henry Tilney's hair was standing on end, was his tongue in his cheek? And if so, is this a clue as to the location of the tongue of the scrivener of that latter account as well?

P.S.: The title of this post just happens to be the epigraph to Chapter 2 of The Mysteries of Udolpho; and the famous speech from which that epigraph was derived also just happens to include the following predicted, additional effect of that soon-to-be unfolded tale:

"....And each particular hair to stand on end...."

And everybody knows that it is not very difficult to "dig up" descriptions relating to graves, corpses, skulls, and bones in the writings of the author of The Mysteries of Udolpho, and also in the famous play from which that famous epigraph is derived.

It sure makes each particular hair of MY head stand on end, and harrows my soul (but only in the best way), when I contemplate the sku---I mean---the skill of all the famous authors mentioned above, in getting across their meaning, without reducing themselves to the indignity of hitting any of their readers over the head, with shin-bones or otherwise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!