A Frowsy Romance

“Cervantes thought that Romance was dying and that Reason might reasonably take its place. But I say that in our time Reason is dying, in that sense; and it is old age is really less respectable than the old romance. We want to recur to the more simple and direct attack. What we want now is somebody who does believe in tilting at giants.” (292)  – G.K. Chesterton, The Return of Don Quixote

IMG_1576I really want this book to be made into a film. What’s more- I really want to be in the film version- black and white, set in the late twenties when cocktails with intriguing names were always to be found in one’s hand and repartee flowed and bubbled.

“I say, do you know your own librarian by sight, by any chance?”
“What on earth have librarians got to do with it?” asked Rosamund in her matter-of-fact way.”Yes, of course, I know him. I don’t think anybody knows him well.”
“Sort of a book-worm, I suppose,” observed Archer. “Well, we’re all worms,” remarked Murrel cheerfully, “I suppose a book-worm shows a rather refined and superior taste in diet. But, look here, I rather want to catch that worm, like an early bird. I say, Rosamund, do be an early bird and catch him for me.”
(21)

I say, I do wish people spoke like this still. Such fun. Briefly stated,  this story, by G. K. Chesterton, balances on a librarian who is enlisted to fill in a part of a play set in the Medieval Age for a weekend party’s amusement. When the play is performed the heretofore retiring bookish librarian flat-out refuse to take his green tights off, or any other part of his costume, and the adventure, class wars, and asylum breakouts ensue.

But Murrel had something of the promptitude of a fencer leaping and lunging at the only loophole in what seemed like a labyrinth of parry and defence. He thrust into the aperture the wedge of a word” (123).

It’s not a book that moves deeply or alters one’s world view, but it is something of a madcap sprawl, (a jaunty hat) through the bizarreness of the struggle between reason and romance that Cervantes made so famous. The cheek and spot-on observations of Chesterton keep the story moving at a quick clip (strapped high heels clicking along the garden path….) but with a wonderfully effulgent elegance (long tight skirt, perhaps tweed?).

My dear Monkey, what’s the matter with you,” demanded Archer. “You seem to be quite sulky when everybody else is pleased.” “It’s not so offensive as being pleased when everybody else is sulky,” answered Murrel (251).

Somehow in this story everyone ends up happily coupled without ever having said very much at all about the matter. I’d love to learn that trick. Must be strictly an English trait of either complete genius or idiocy. Or perhaps that is Chesterton’s point, in matters of the heart, reason and its tools (words) are useless. I guess I’ll just straighten my (seamed) stockings and carry on tilting at giants.

For Mr. Douglas Murrel had by no means the intention of losing his faculty of enjoying the absurd with complete gravity (276).

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4 responses to “A Frowsy Romance

  1. I think maybe Chesterton is a good enough writer to know that the best way to say something is not to say it. Maybe it’s something about the obsession with manners, or maybe all this strange weather we get, people use it as a cover for not saying what they mean, whilst the real meaning sort of lurks. Was it GKC who said, we stand around in a circle and suppose, but the truth sits in the centre and knows? English can be incredibly subtle in the hands of a master like him.

    Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2014 20:55:28 +0000 To: texthistory@outlook.com

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