Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nightmare Abbey

Nightmare Abbey, by Thomas Love Peacock

"Published in the same year as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey is not just a burlesque of the Gothic novel, but a sustained critique of what he regarded as 'the darkness and misanthropy of modern literature.' His witty satire on 'the spirit of the age' can best be understood through an awareness of its complex intertextual relations with other works of Romantic literature."
--Nicholas A. Joukovsky

Well, that about sums it up-- a witty, satirical "send up" of the Gothic novel.  I found Nightmare Abbey amusing in spots, but unfortunately, dense and (honestly) dull in others, which interrupts the flow.  Where it's good, though, it's very good-- and many of the most biting criticisms feel just as relevant today as they must have done when it was written.

Do I recommend it?  It's probably not for the general public, but to the right sort of person, it would be a delight.  It's short, but it took me (what felt like) a long time to plod through it, and I'd have liked it better if certain of the trudgier parts had been left out.

Some tidbits:

--  Odd names abound, some amusing (Mr. Toobad, Mr. Glowry), some rather blandly attempting at humor (Mr. Listless), and some just odd (Scythrop). 

--  There are words in this novella that are not in some (most?) dictionaries.  Or, put another way, dude liked weird words.  ;o)  ("Jeremitaylorically", anyone?)

--  "Laughter is pleasant, but the exertion is too much for me."

--  "But I must say, modern books are very consolatory and congenial to my feelings.  There is, as it were, a delightful northeast wind, an intellectual blight breathing through them; a delicious misanthropy and discontent, that demonstrates the nullity of virtue and energy, and puts me in good humour with myself and my sofa."

--  Mermaids are the orangutangs of the sea.  Apparently.

--  "He was sitting at his table by the light of a solitary candle, with a pen in one hand, and a muffineer in the other, with which he occasionally sprinkled salt on the wick, to make it burn blue."  (Ooh, I want blue flame, too!  Must learn this salt-sprinkling trick... ;o))

--  "She had a lively sense of all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and the vivid pictures which her imagination presented to her of the numberless scenes of injustice and misery which are being acted at every moment in every part of the inhabited world, gave an habitual seriousness to her physiognomy, that made it seem as if a smile had never once hovered on her lips."

--  "'Fatout,' said the Honourable Mr Listless, 'did I ever see a ghost?'   'Jamais, monsieur, never.'"

--  I love the interactions between Fatout and Listless.  I need a Fatout to remember everything for me, too...

--  "'The Reverend Mr Larynx has been called off on duty, to marry or bury (I don't know which) some unfortunate person or persons, at Claydyke: but man is born to trouble!"

--  The "accurate description of a pensive attitude" (at the end of chapter 13)-- !