Saturday, 26 May 2007

Daisy, Daisy...

In case you were worried I'd gone all 21st century, this post will reassure you. Recent novels may be brimming with topicality, but they don't compare with the charm and appeal of the book I picked up today in Oxfam. Not sure how discernible the picture is, so I'll tell you about it.

Man Proposes does sound a little like the least complex novel ever written, but it is in fact not a novel, it is an anthology. I mentioned Katharine Moore's Cordial Relations: The Maiden Aunt in Fact and Fiction as exemplifying an unusual and in
triguing premise for a book of analysis. Man Proposes is another - Agnes Furlong has collected many incidents of proposals, mostly from literature, and published them together, with some rather oddly beguiling illustrations by Olive M. Simpson. You know how I love oddly beguiling illustrations...

How do people think of things like this? And what a lot of work must have gone into it. Equally, how could I leave it on the shelf? £1.99 in the Oxfam till, and this book accompanied me home. Published in 1948, Man Proposes is divided into nine sections, though I've yet to quite determine the significance of these divisions. Cited authors include
Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare, Alcott, Tennyson, Daisy Ashford (hilarious), E.M. Delafield, Hardy, Trollope, Laski (for Persephone fans), J. M. Barrie, Wilde, Lear, Leacock (love him), Shaw... oh, there are dozens of them. The comedic is alongside the touching; the famous with the obscure. While I wouldn't offer this as a Users' Guide (though I read the first one to two friends, both of whom went slightly weak at the knees) it provides an interesting and amusing insight into authors' dealing with this climactic moment for centuries of literature. And it wouldn't have a hope of being published now.

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