Literary Allusions in the Novels
‘But these little remembered scraps of culture had a way of coming out unexpectedly.’ Thus Belinda Bede of Some Tame Gazelle apologises to herself for having quoted unsuitably. A friend’s plan for a pond of goldfish and water lilies has brought to her lips lines from ‘The Fish, the Man and the Spirit’. ‘Leigh Hunt writes rather charmingly about a fish’, she says. ‘Legless, unloving, infamously chaste’ (p. 59). True to her modesty as her disclaimer is, it is false to her remarkable knowledge of English poetry. As Archdeacon Hoccleve reflects, ‘She often wasted her time reading things that nobody else would dream of reading’ (p. 55). Across the novel she ranges in thought and speech from the anonymous Sawles Warde, written in the twelfth or thirteenth century, through the poetry of intervening centuries to that of Sir John Betjeman. Indeed, her lifetime love for Henry Hoccleve is in part based upon his equal devotion to the English poets. His sermons are studded with quotations from the poets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; his conversation abounds in passages from Gray’s ‘Elegy’ and Young’s Night Thoughts; and he enjoys nothing so much as listening to himself reading aloud to Belinda from The Faerie Queene, Samson Agonistes or The Prelude.
KeywordsMoral Evil Water Lily English Poetry English Poet Love Poem
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- 1.Jeremy Treglown, ‘Puff Puff Puff’, New Statesman, 94 (23 Sep 1977) 418.Google Scholar