A fellow whose book picks I respect (hey, he's a book store) was going on about a late Victorian novelist named Maxwell Gray (and also here.) In particular, he mentions Gray's tome: "The Silence of Dean Maitland." Certainly the lead book in "The World's Greatest Books," which is a blockbuster to boot, should merit our attention. So, off to the Alibris book site I go and, low and behold, there are a bunch available. I order this vaunted gem and wait anxiously for its arrival. One day it comes. As with many Alibris books it is wrapped in brown paper (let's keep it anonymous, sort of like Playboy.) I hurry home after a hard day fighting back germs and curl up in my chair and unwrap this Great Book (sorry, Mortimer, your list is incomplete.)
Firstly, it is a dusty, dusky tome in a peculiar shade of quaint, olive green. While intact, it has clearly resided on the shelves of someone's study since coming home from the bookseller probably a hundred years ago. It was published by the F.M. Lupton Publishing Company in New York. "Of all the publishers of cheap books during the 1880s there were few to rival the cheapness of F.M. Lupton's productions." You betcha. There is no information at all after the front page. Opposite this page written near the spine is the observation "e good but a lot ex words." I assume this means "Pretty good, but a lot of extra words." I should have heeded this sage observation.
Where ever one word would suffice, Maxwell Gray uses three. For instance, the opening sentence:
"The gray afternoon was wearing on to its chill close; the dark cope of immovable dun cloud overhead seemed to contract and grow closer to the silent world beneath it, and the steep, chalky hill, leading from the ancient village, with its hoary castle and church, up over the bleak, barren down was a weary thing to climb. "Whew! How about
"The afternoon was wearing on to its close; the cope of immovable cloud overhead seemed to grow closer to the world beneath it, and the steep hill leading from the village, with its castle and church, up over the down was a weary thing to climb."I slogged on through this till I could go no more and was pulled down, down into the moist and evil quicksand that glistened all about me with the faint dewdrops of extra words.
But, I tried. And, then it struck me, what a clever thing this book was. If ever I was in possession of Vital Secrets, the plans for the battle, whatever, all they would have to do for me to confess all would be to strap me down and read me Chapter IV of "The Silence of Dean Maitland."
Of course the hooker is that Maxwell Gray is actually Miss Mary Gleed Tuttiett. It does have the same ring as George Elliot.
And, of course, I could not resist the money quote from page 41:
"Who shall say how far a man's will consents to his acts? added Everard, musingly."