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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

"Some Do Not ..." by Ford Madox Ford

This is the first book of the Parade's End tetralogy. It is written by the author of The Good Soldier and it contains some of the same themes: the Catholic wife married to the Protestant husband, adultery, and the motivation of keeping up appearances.

Some Do Not ... was published in 1924, after Ulysses (1922) but before Mrs Dalloway (1925). As with these other novels, it foregrounds thought. Each chapter starts with a situation, and then rambles backwards and forwards. In this way the narrative technique resembles that of The Good Soldier (although it is less extreme, confining the rambling to within each chapter rather than allowing it to spread across the whole book as in TGS). In addition some of the chapters are told from within the head of one of the characters. Thus, Part One Chapter Six is a stream of consciousness in which Tietjens walks through the countryside following Valentine and thinks (and falls in love with her).

The protagonist if Christopher Tietjens, younger son of the owner of Groby, a stately home in Yorkshire, who is the ultimate in know-all geeks and the last of the stiff-upper-lipped old-style noblesse-oblige upper-class. The story opens in a railway carriage where CT and Vincent Macmaster (a Scott of very humble beginnings who has been supported through his education by CT's father and who is the soul of ambition) are discussing whether CT should forgive his wife who is asking to be taken back after running off to Europe with another man (leaving CT with a child whom he doubts is really his; in a brilliant pathetic fallacy we are told that CT is “interested in the domestic affairs of the cuckoo”). We progress through an attack on a golfing party by Suffragettes, a breakfast party with a clergyman suffering from some sort of religious Tourettes (at which VM falls in love with the clergyman's wife), to CT falling into unconsummated love with one of the Suffragette girls, Valentine Wannop (a wonderfully liberated woman who, to make ends meet after the death of her Professor father and to keep her brother at Eton works as a maid and later as a gym mistress). Part Two opens three years later during World War One. CT has been injured and is slowly recovering the use of his memory. Although everyone around him has been committing adulteries and he and VW are the only sexual innocents the rumours suggest he has made her pregnant; society (and particularly the guiltiest) is beginning to turn its back on him. CT is recalled to the front. Given that he may very well be killed, and given that he has already lost his reputation, should Christopher consummate his love for Valentine?

A wonderful novel exposing the double standards behind society. As the book points out, those who don't go to the front to fight resent those who do and therefore do their best to blacken their names. Those who are guilty hate those who are innocent.

There are some great moments in which the socio-historical situation is laid bare. It is difficult to say whether the comments reveal the attitudes of the author, or of the character, and to what extent the author is writing these things in order to criticise them.

  • I am offered the job—of course it’s an order really—of suppressing the Ulster Volunteers . . . I’d rather cut my throat than do it . . . ’ Sandbach said: ‘Of course you would, old chap. They’re our brothers.
  • And policemen to go round the links with Ministers to protect them from the wild women .
  • The wangle known as shell-shock was cynically laughed at and quite approved of. Quite decent and, as far as she knew, quite brave menfolk of her women would openly boast that, when they had had enough of it over there, they would wangle a little leave or get a little leave extended by simulating this purely nominal disease, and in the general carnival of lying, lechery, drink, and howling that this affair was, to pretend to a little shell-shock had seemed to her to be almost virtuous.
  • charity begins surely with the char!


There are many other brilliant lines:

  • As Tietjens saw the world, you didn’t ‘talk.’ Perhaps you didn’t even think about how you felt.
  • Disasters come to men through drink, bankruptcy, and women.
  • His life had necessarily been starved of women and, arrived at a stage when the female element might, even with due respect to caution, be considered as a legitimate feature of his life, he had to fear a rashness of choice due to that very starvation.
  • If you swat flies enough some of them stick to the wall.
  • What finally separated the classes was that the upper could lift its feet from the ground whilst common people couldn’t.
  • “dagger . . . sheath!”: This is a wonderful metaphor (full of sexual innuendo) in which the narrator compares his wife with the woman he loves:
  • Heroines are all very well; admirable, they may even be saints; but if they let themselves get careworn in face and go shabby . . . Well, they must wait for the gold that shall be amply stored for them in heaven.
  • No woman should wear clouded amber, for which the proper function was the provision of cigarette holders for bounders.
  • The devil of course is stupid and uses toys like fireworks and sulphur; it is probably only God who can, very properly, devise the long ailings of mental oppressions .
  • Actually, this mist was not silver, or was, perhaps, no longer silver: if you looked at it with the eye of the artist . . . With the exact eye! It was smirched with bars of purple; of red; or orange; delicate reflections: dark blue shadows from the upper sky where it formed drifts like snow . . . The exact eye: exact observation: it was a man’s work. The only work for a man. Why then were artists soft: effeminate: not men at all: whilst the army officer, who had the inexact mind of the schoolteacher, was a manly man? Quite a manly man: until he became an old woman!
  • But why was he born to be a sort of lonely buffalo: outside the herd?
  • when she entered the room every woman kept her husband on the leash.
  • He had come in like a stallion, red-eyed, and all his legs off the ground: he went down the stairs like a half-drowned rat, with dim eyes and really looking wet,
  • she was sure her butler would get to heaven, simply because the Recording Angel, being an angel—and, as such, delicately minded—wouldn’t have the face to put down, much less read out, the least venial of Morgan’s offences .
  • they hate the French for being frugal and strong in logic and well-educated and remorselessly practical.
  • Perhaps the complete study of one woman gave you a map of all the rest!
  • The poorer helots of great cities hearten their lives by dreaming of material beauties, elegance and suave wealth,
  • The staff officers who came to the Tietjens were not of the first vintages; still they had the labels and passed as such.
  • proficiency of the body calls for chastity, sobriety, cleanliness and the various qualities that group themselves under the heading of abnegation.”
The book explores social mobility. Tietjens, though an old Tory with the most privileged background, is utterly at home with all classes. Valentine was forced by her father's death to leave her privileged world and become a maid but this experience has not in the least coarsened her. Her bother, in contrast, who went to Eton at the expense of his skivvying sister, embraces communism and becomes a conscientious objector during the war, which involves working on a mine sweeper after a spell in prison, and is depicted as a drunk, coarsened by his rather privileged upbringing just as Valentine has been purified and refined by her descent into the working class.

Mrs Duchemin, the long-suffering wife of the manic preacher, who has an affair with Macmaster, and whose return for the protection and discretion of Tietjens is to shun him and blacken his name.She and Macmaster are from the poorest classes and successful social climbers; their Friday salons are a perfect example of evolving pecking orders.

Modernist writing at its best. June 2018

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