necromommycon: (Chase eager)
[personal profile] necromommycon
And I am herein being deliberately facetious and taking a profound and evil glee in what we'll have to call Freudian anachronisms--turns of phrase, in other words, that read like deliciously telling slips now, but were probably written in all innocence then. For, at any rate, a given value of innocence...

When I last delighted you with bits of David, his friend Frank Maddox had suffered some sort of horrible but unexplained temptation whilst looking at, well, freshly-bathed bits of David. Personally I find it hard to imagine what one would have to have wrong with one to consider schoolboys appealing, but I'm quite happy not imagining it, really.

So, moving right along, Frank and David have a heart-to-heart following the news that a schoolfriend has been expelled for...well, we don't really get told. But this pings Frank's conscience, because of that bath scene.
p. 194: Frank was still lying with his hat over his face, but now he pushed it back and looked at David.
"It's all serene for you," he said, "because you've always been a straight chap. But it's different for me. I feel just rotten."

A straight chap? Hardly. But fun to tease, apparently.
p. 196: Frank laughed.
"David, it's no sport trying to get a rise out of you," he said. "You simply rise at anything."
Well. That must make him fun to hang around with, surely.
That awkward conversation out of the way, the boys can enjoy a game of golf.
p. 201: ...absorbed in their game and yet absorbed in their friendship of boy-love, hot as fire and clean as the trickle of ice-water on a glacier. The knowledge of their talk had made Frank able to turn himself away from all the bad business of Adams's letter, and instead of brooding on the irremediable worst of himself, he took hold of all that was best. And now by his side was David, the friend of friends, now with his arm linked in his, now excitedly addressing a cupped ball with his largest driver...
Gosh, golf sounds exciting, doesn't it?
Later, the head of their house speaks to Maddox about David, who has been breaking the rules and being a little too high-spirited. Probably overexcitement brought on by too much golf, if you ask me.
p. 214: "But it can't go on," he said. "David's becoming a nuisance, and gating him and giving him lines to write is no earthly good. What he wants is a good licking and plenty of exercise. There's not an ounce of harm in him."
"Oh, he's the straightest chap in the world," said Maddox.
You keep using that word, Maddox, and I do not think it means what you think it means. Also, you should have been honest and told Adams the truth: David's had a good licking (the scene in which you beat him is indelibly etched on all our memories, I'm sure), and he's getting an absolute surplus of exercise.
By Maddox's last term at school they've begun to hang around with each other, more so then they were already doing, and their friendship is such that poor old Bags' wish that he and David be David and Jonathan comes true--but not for Bags, alas, who has, we are told at least three times, a goat-like face (and is, and I pray this is coincidental, the only Jewish character). This next bit is Adams speaking to David and Frank Maddox.
p. 241: "Yes, by all means, yes, you--you blest pair of sirens," he said, quoting from the Milton Ode which was to be sung at concert at the end of the term. "And take care of David, Jonathan, and don't let him sink from being top-heavy with pride. We shall want him to bowl next year."

They're very good chums, and David so admires Maddox that his interest in the classics dates from this speech of Frank's, in which he introduces him to the glory that was Greece.
p. 251: "Well, it wasn't only games that they were so keen about. They loved sculpture and painting and writing so much, that no one ever touched them at it, before or since. It was the consummate age, so the Head said. And then, when it came to fighting, a little potty place like Attica, no bigger than a small English county, just wiped the Persians up. In everything, so the Head told us, the Athenians of the great age were the type of the perfect physical and intellectual life. Oh, David, let's save up and go to Athens."

And it tears them up something awful that Frank, being three years older, has to leave school first.
p. 253: "It's only five weeks to the end of the half," he whispered, "and--and you don't come back."
"I know; it's foul. I was thinking of it myself. It's been keeping me awake."
David was silent a minute; then Frank spoke again.
"I'm sorry to leave for a whole heap of reasons," he said. "One more than any."
"What's that?" said David.
"Fellow called Blaize. Thought I should just like to tell you. Now don't groan any more. Go to sleep, you swell in the twenty-two."
"Right oh, fellow called Maddox," said David.
You may not have spotted this, what with being busy having to projectile vomit, but Frank just ordered David to go to sleep. Believe it or not, this will be a crucial plot point.
pp. 258-9: "David, old chap," he said, "I don't believe two fellows ever had such a good time as we've had, and it would be rot to pretend not to be sorry that this bit of it has come to an end. I dare say we shall have splendid times together again, but there's no doubt that this is over. On the other hand, it would be equal rot not to feel jolly thankful for it. The chances were millions to one against our ever coming across each other at all. So buck up, as I said."
David had rolled over on to his face, but at this he sat up, picking bits of dry grass out of his hair.
"Yes, that's so," he said. "But it will be pretty beastly without you. I shan't find another friend like you--"
"You'd jolly well better not," interrupted Frank.
David could not help laughing.
"I suppose we're rather idiots about each other," he said.
No argument here.
David falls briefly in love, but luckily unfortunately the girl is already engaged to her cousin. Poor old Bags gets to break the bad news to him.
p. 304: "I say, David," he said shyly, "if you only knew how I hate anything that hurts you. I should like to kill that chap."
And his plain, rather goat-like face glowed with that which had so long inspired him, namely, his affection for David, that shy, silent passion of friendship.
David spun the propeller once or twice.
"Well, he's a jolly lucky chap," he said at length.
Then he looked at Bags and saw in his eyes just that blind devotion that you can see in a dog's eyes, if you understand dogs.
David's playing with a model airplane there, by the way, in case you worried about what "spinning the propeller" might be a euphemism for.
Then quite suddenly on the next page DAVID IS DYING AND THEY'RE PRAYING FOR HIM IN CHAPEL. Only it turns out to be much later than that conversation with Bags, weeks or maybe months later, I've lost track. David has tried to grab a runaway horse (I couldn't figure out why at first, but it's to stop other people from being crushed horribly by it) and has--you see this coming--been crushed horribly by it. So the head is asking them to pray for him, and telling them about what may be his last words. And I must be an awful person, but I couldn't stop laughing, because I know I've read nearly exactly this scene in at least two other books. Did it used to be a requirement that there be a death or near-death, complete with solemn chapel service, in books about schools?
Then the Head spoke again.
"I have told you this on purpose," he said, "to show you how he faces death, if it is that God wishes him to face. Also to show you that, as he still hopes to live, we must hope it with him in all the power that prayer gives us. But he faces death with all the--the gay courage which he faced that which has brought him into peril of it."
No doubt.
Bags and Maddox wait together. David is weakening, because he cannot sleep, and so his youthful ability to recover from being crushed is impaired, or something. I don't know, I'm not a doctor, and neither was the person who wrote this, obviously. Bags feels badly because he didn't leap for the Horse of Crushiness, and Maddox says he wishes Bags had, which seems kind of mean.
p. 311: Bags caught his breath. "Don't know what there was about him," he said, "but there he was. Just David, you know. And he liked you most awfully. I used to get damned jealous. Sorry."

But after midnight Maddox is summoned to David's sickroom, because David's been asking for him. David wants to hold hands, so they do, and the doctor tells Maddox it's utterly vitally important he stay in that position all night, which is about as probable as all those HP fics where the Head Boy and Head Girl have to share a bathroom, but whatever. They prop Maddox's arm up with pillows and he valiantly sits there going numb. He tells David to shut up and go to sleep, and David does. See? I told you it was important.
All that morning Maddox sat by David's bed as he slept. It was he who had brought to him, through the tie of their love and David's instinctive obedience to his suggestion, the sleep that had been so imperative a need, and the sunny morning grew broad and hot as he dozed sometimes, but oftener watched, filled with a huge and humble exultation of happiness that he had been able to help David. And when David woke, as he did, a little after noon, it was the best of all. For even while his eyes were yet scarcely unclosed, he spoke just one word--Frank's name, still sleepily.
And they mutter some mushy stuff back and forth, the end. Presumably he recovers and they go to Greece.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And what of poor old Bags, with the goat-like face? He was shagged to within an inch of his life by a youthful Aberforth Dumbledore.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You SICK person. I don't know, I personally hope poor old goat-like Bags found someone who didn't feel a need to say that about him constantly. He's a bit of an outcast in the book, in a way--thinks too much, not madly popular, doesn't seem to have "special friend" other than David....possibly he turned out to be straight.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Straight? In a boys' school story? Who are you kidding? :p

(BTW is it actually anyone in the story, or only the author, who constantly bleats on about his caprine features?)

Date: 2008-09-19 11:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's to tell. It's technically the author, but it happens twice when it's clearly David's thoughts we're following, so it might be David's opinion as well.

There could be one straight boy, surely.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sure, there is. By extrapolation, it's the cousin who married the girl of David's fancy.

So, yeah... the wonderful world of E.F. Benson. If ít isn't homosexuality, it's first-cousin marriage. And then there's the uncanny resemblance the author claims between David and his sister...

In appearance she was so like David that if brother and sister had dressed in the other's clothes and corrected the discrepancy of hair and broken front tooth, either might have passed a frontier with the passport of the other. p123.

So apart from those odd moments where Frank (apparently) gets to see that David really is David, for all we know it's Margery Blaize who's courting and fagging for him, and all is disturbingly refreshingly het again... ;)

Date: 2008-09-19 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If i were Margery, I'd hold out for a straight cousin, preferably one who hadn't been to public school, or at least not to one of the schools in this book...

Date: 2008-09-21 05:41 pm (UTC)
snorkackcatcher: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snorkackcatcher
He's a bit of an outcast in the book, in a way--thinks too much, not madly popular, doesn't seem to have "special friend" other than David

That was pretty common for nerdy characters in these sorts of story, wasn't it? It's why I found the treatment of Hermione in HP so hugely refreshing.

Date: 2008-09-22 07:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Was it? D: Poor nerdy characters. It's not bad enough their real-life counterparts suffer, but the book ones must as well?

Date: 2008-09-22 07:45 pm (UTC)
snorkackcatcher: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snorkackcatcher
Well, I get the impression that old English public schools were pretty much "if you're not in the cricket XI/rugger XV you're a bit of a waste of space, really, old chap". I may be reading too much into things, but academic prowess has often seemed to be not all that highly prized, and possibly a bit suspect, in the British education system. I gather the USA is much the same. Maybe it's a Anglo-Saxon thing -- a rather dumb one if so -- which makes me wonder what school tales are like in cultures that focus on the academic? (Japan, maybe?) Would the equivalent of jocks/rugger buggers be looked down on?

Date: 2008-09-22 11:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I sincerely hope so. *is obviously a non-jock bookish type*
Edited Date: 2008-09-22 11:53 pm (UTC)

Date: 2008-09-19 11:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
... Is going to Greece some sort of poorly concealed euphemism for 'consummated their burning boyish passion'?

Also, I was reading an interview with an author a couple of years ago who'd written these sort of things in the twenties, and I'm sorry I didn't bookmark it at the time, because he was talking about how, in retrospect, it all looks *terribly* queer, but it was just the style they wrote in at the time, and he and his peers had no idea of how it would come to be read *g*

Date: 2008-09-19 11:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I assume it is, but perhaps I've been misled by stories about Byron. :D

I think, given that rather overwrought bath scene, this author must have had some inkling how this would read. Surely. I hope. But I also sense there's some sort of...historic higher tolerance for soppiness going on here.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:53 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
I remember boggling a bit in Gaudy Night about the peculiar ex-Shrewsbury student (who had taken up some sort of cultish religion involving nudity), where Harriet says something like 'Well, she always was a bit odd. Wormed round, rather, and had a bit of a GP for Miss Shaw... perhaps we were all a bit repressed in those days"

What could she mean? (I mean, I know GP is a schoolgirl abbreviation for grande passion, and nothing to do with playing doctors and nurses, but the mental images are all a bit odd).

Date: 2008-09-19 12:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We used to call it "worming" the dogs (we obviously meant deworming), so perhaps she expressed her otherwise repressed feelings by plying people with tablets from the vet's.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:43 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in cricket gear as Five, caption "Cricket" (cricket)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
"David, it's no sport trying to get a rise out of you,"

I've been known to use the phrase 'get a rise out of someone'. I form the impression that my vocabulary is at least... fifty years out of date, and full of unintentional innuendo to boot.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
THAT REMINDS ME. this is somewhat off-topic, but speaking of slightly-outdated phrase that one uses (me, too, actually--"get a rise" in particular, I mean), I found a reference to "teaching your grandmother to suck eggs" in that book of advice from the Boy's Own Paper. I need to dig that out and quote it tomorrow.

A close friend and I used to call each other "old chap" constantly, and that sort of thing, but that was a surfeit of Boy's Own Annuals on both our parts.

Date: 2008-09-19 11:56 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
When I was an undergraduate, a group of my friends adopted a lot of old fashioned slang - in particular, calling things 'spiffing', which I still think is a brilliant word. One of my friends also insisted in giving us terrible opposite sex names, which she though was terribly amusing until we stuck her with 'Percy.'

It's possible that we were a little odd.

Date: 2008-09-19 12:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When I was ten, a group of us got it into our heads to only address each other by surnames or nicknames like "Beans." Which sounds now as if we were reading Wodehouse, but I assure you we weren't at the time. So...we were cross-contaminated somehow, presumably by Wodehousians, but I don't know who they were or how that happened.
Edited Date: 2008-09-19 12:13 pm (UTC)

Date: 2008-09-19 12:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The best modern use of that phrase, hands down (

Date: 2008-09-20 06:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've been known to use the phrase 'get a rise out of someone'.

I probably wouldn't use it, but I'm certainly known to think it.

I form the impression that my vocabulary is at least... fifty years out of date, and full of unintentional innuendo to boot.

Only fifty years out of date? You're lucky. ;-)

Date: 2008-09-19 12:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I LOVE LOVE LOVE with the deepest and purest of all loves, these excerpts with which you are dazzling us. Pray, do continue.

I read much Enid Blyton when I was a girl. In retrospect, it explains much about my character. ^___^

Date: 2008-09-20 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So did I! read much Enid Blyton, I mean. I suspect it did something to us, to be honest.

Date: 2008-09-20 12:09 am (UTC)
snorkackcatcher: (Default)
From: [personal profile] snorkackcatcher
I'm finding it hard to believe in their entire innocence here. Innuendo of that quality would have fit right into a 1970s/80s Britcom.

Date: 2008-09-20 01:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You know, this is true. Next to this, Mr. Humphries looks underdrawn and subtle.

Date: 2008-09-20 04:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
David wants to hold hands, so they do, and the doctor tells Maddox it's utterly vitally important he stay in that position all night, which is about as probable as all those HP fics where the Head Boy and Head Girl have to share a bathroom, but whatever.


I suppose it should be a comfort that a published author actually has got away with such a blatant bit of self-indulgent... what do we call this? Romantic excuse-making? That's not the phrase I'm looking for, but I can't find the right one.

Oh, before I forget: did you get to this post ( If the sendspace links are expired, I'll see what I can do about reposting the files.

Date: 2008-09-20 06:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, NO, I hadn't seen that. *hugs impulsively* Thank you; that's marvellous.

Date: 2008-09-20 06:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*hugs back*

You're most welcome. I hope all the links still work?

I should've said something sooner--it finally hit me that it went up too close to the wire, and would've been lost in your f-list by the time you got back to a connection.

Date: 2008-09-20 11:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They did--all work. I shall be inflicting them later on innocent victims. ;)

Date: 2008-09-20 07:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Don't be so certain this was entirely unintentional. Read Ravensbrood. Benson's homoerotica -- veiled but present -- was very much there of a purpose.

Date: 2008-09-20 09:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Seriously? I was a bit suspicious--it was all a little too perfect to have been accidental.

Date: 2008-09-20 09:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh my god, no. David Blaize is notoriously homoerotic. The bath scene? Please. Benson? Quite gay (but apparently celibate). Please. The Lucia Novels? ONLY a gay man could write 'em. But read Ravens Brood. It's fabulous.

Date: 2008-09-20 11:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I thought the Lucia novels were done by a woman, honest to god.

Date: 2008-09-20 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
::clicks tongue disapprovingly::

Oh, my goodness, no.

Benson's one of my favorites. You should explore him. =-)

Date: 2008-09-20 11:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, so touching there are no adequate words, really.

Date: 2008-09-20 10:56 am (UTC)
ext_22136: Slytherin House badge with Prowling the Net as caption (Default)
From: [identity profile]
These are brilliant. The homoeroticism HAS to be intentional. Has to be, surely?
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