Thursday, 4 March 2010

Mother, May I?

This rather wonderful Victorian novel - Robert Surtees' Ask Mamma, or The Richest Commoner in England - advertises itself thusly:
IT may be a recommendation to the lover of light literature to be told that the following story does not involve the complication of a plot. It is a mere continuous narrative of an almost every-day exaggeration, interspersed with sporting scenes and excellent illustrations by LEECH.
Every day exaggeration? With sporting scenes? And no plot? WHERE DO I SIGN

I guess it also contains dressed-up dogs who keep other naked dogs as pets.

The hero of the work is "Fine Billy" who is fine indeed.
Nature had favoured Billy's pretensions in the lady-killing way. In person he was above the middle height, five feet eleven or so, slim and well-proportioned, with a finely-shaped head and face, fair complexion, light brown hair, laughing blue eyes, with long lashes, good eyebrows, regular pearly teeth and delicately pencilled moustache. Whiskers he did not aspire to. In the dress department he was ably assisted by his mother, a lady of very considerable taste, who not only fashioned his clothes but his mind.
This Victorian epitome of a "good catch" sounds to me like a mincing tranny. But what can I say, the ladies clearly love him.

The book is basically sex interspersed with fox-hunting, and as such represents a certain strain of Victorian culture; provinical, boisterous and pseudo-aristocratic.

This picture is excellent, firstly and most obviously because of her coy pose, but also because to the Victorian mind a plump, jolly older gentleman proposing to a young lady without even bothering to put down his glass of whisky says nothing other than "excellent match". Quite right, too.

I don't even know what the hell this is supposed to be.

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