Huh

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Dec 19 17:25:09 EST 2004


Helen Schinske wrote in reply to Roslyn:
>> >It's both, really. You're right that coeducation (and 'modern' ideas about 
>> >education) comes up in _The Silver Chair_ (I'd forgotten that--thanks!) but 
>> >it's in _The Voyage of the Dawntreader_ that the other stuff comes up. On 
>> >page one he writes: "They [Eustace Clarence Scrubb's parents] were 
>> >vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers and wore a special kind of 
>> >underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few 
>> >clothes on beds and the windows were always open."
>> 
>Why is it that Lewis gets all the heat for this kind of thing? Seems to me 
>Nesbit could be just as nasty about sorts of people she didn't like, buildings 
>she thought ugly, etc. I can remember feeling downright guilty for thinking the 
>dark red curtains she despised so ("the color that blood would not make a 
>stain on" in Nurse's furnished lodgings at the beginning of _The Story of the 
>Amulet_) sounded rather handsome. 

Anyone who's ever read any book in which some thing or other is
condemned by the author or the viewpoint character as "vulgar" is likely
to feel a bit got at as they read, if they happen to think the thing is 
perfectly ok.

>I am pretty sure that Lewis was drawing on Nesbit anyway. Witness _The New 
>Treasure Seekers_: "Father knows a man called Eustace Sandal. I do not know how 
>to express his inside soul, but I have heard father say he means well.

Ouch! 

>He is a 
>vegetarian and a Primitive Social Something, and an all-wooler, and things 
>like that, and he is really as good as he can stick, only most awfully dull. I 
>believe he eats bread and milk from choice. ... All the walls were white 
>plaster, the furniture was white deal -- what there was of it, which was precious 
>little. There were no carpets -- only white matting. And there was not a single 
>ornament in a single room! There was a clock on the dining-room mantelpiece, 
>but that could not be counted as an ornament .,. When we were clean Miss Sandal 
>gave us tea. As we sat down she said, 'The motto of our little household is 
>"Plain living and high thinking." ' " 

If someone said that to you, wouldn't you want to laugh at them?  

The urge to mock the over-earnest isn't confined to those two authors, I
don't think: it runs as a thread through an awful lot of literature.
Doesn't Jane Austen fail to suffer some sorts of fool gladly? Dickens
can be fairly scathing on his day, too, as can Thackery and Trollope.

There's a fine line anyway between having high principles and being a
crank.  One of my great-uncles was a dandy, but also a vegetarian, and
suffered greatly because really the only non-leather footwear he could
buy in those days was either rather nasty canvas shoes or wellington
boots, neither of which is very smart.  To suffer for his vegetarian
principles was fine; to try to force other members of the family also to
desist from wearing leather shoes was *not*.  When he began to ask total
strangers in the street how they could reconcile their boots with their
consciences, it was felt that this was going a bit far into the realms
of galloping eccentricity.

[note for anyone who doesn't happen to have met this: "eccentric" is a
British euphamism for "stark staring loony but harmless".]

obDWJ, one might, after reading *Black Maria*, think she had a down on
healthy eating: consider the meusli.  I can remember when that was
definitely regarded as "crank food" by almost everyone, including anyone
who had been lumbered with it as the only thing available for breakfast
at the houses of well-meaning healthy-living aunts.  It can be as
balanced and healthy as it likes, if one doesn't happen to like meusli
it might just as well be sawdust with chewy bits in, particularly if
it's served with skimmed milk.  That doesn't mean people shouldn't be
allowed to eat it if they want to, but nobody ought to be allowed to
force meusli on innocent little children.

Minnow
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