THE BECKFOOT FLAG,
HOW CHARACTER INFLUENCES PLOT IN THE BOOKS,
Talk by JILL GOULDER,first given at The Arthur Ransome Society Literary Weekend
at Rydal Hall, Cumbria in October 1997
I should say first that I'm not going to embark on a character analysis of Blue Treacle or an explanation of how Lenin influences the plot in Six Weeks in Russia: I'm sticking to the 12-and-a-half books featuring the Swallows, Amazons and Ds. Nor am I going to talk about the structure of the books - the invisible influences, the author's choice. I'm looking at the books as biography.
Incidentally, I'm assuming that you all know about my title episode, The Beckfoot Flag? How many not? Well, you iggerant lot, in Winter Holiday when the pre-mumps Nancy is planning a North Pole march, she suggests in passing that she'll fly a flag from the Beckfoot flagpole when the time comes to go. Dick, being Dick and a scientist, writes in his notebookFlag at Beckfoot = Start for PoleThen mumps gets in the way, so it's not surprising that when the post-mumps celebration in the Fram is planned, Nancy's forgotten about her initial signal and tells the Swallows that she'll fly a red flag if she can come. Dick isn't present, so when the flag goes up, off he goes to the Pole; and he goes because of his own scientific character and Nancy's super-inventive one.
I expect you all know about teleology and use the word all the time. To jog your memories, it means explaining an event in terms of the purpose it serves (the plot) rather than of the apparent cause (the character). For example, teleologically speaking Dick had to remember about the first Beckfoot flag instruction because otherwise there wouldn't have been the splendid dénouement of Winter Holiday. Well - fiddlesticks! Dick remembered about it because he was Dick the scientist, who writes things down in notebooks. Or are you a roomful of predestination enthusiasts, who thinks that we're all doing what our Author wants? Anyway, this talk is a teleology-free zone: for the next 50 minutes, the children are real and it all happened....
Well, the children may be real, but they dictate large sections of the plot by their inventions. The Swallows, Amazons and Ds have read certain books - Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, tales of Nansen - so they can instantly incorporate a houseboat-owning uncle as Captain Flint, for example, and conduct a good war against him. Ransome says in a letterSailing is so much more fun with a purpose,
and the team invent purposes - piracy, mining, polar exploration - to make real life more fun. In so many other children's books the children are having a plain camping sort of holiday, not imagining for a moment that they're anything but themselves, when they stumble on a mysterious castle or tunnel and get kidnapped by evil men with beards.
When I was re-reading the Ransome books for this talk (instead of getting on with my prep), I was struck by how often the crucial changes of direction happen during what seem like quite low-key conversations; the crew have got to know what each other is likely to think and want, and we get to know it too. Myles North - who gave Ransome the plot for Great Northern? - wrote to RansomeGiven any set of circumstances, the reader knows just how Nancy or Roger or Susan would feel.
There's an example in Winter Holiday again, during the expedition to Greenland, when the elders dash off with the sledge leaving the youngers free to - well, eventually to rescue a cragfast sheep. All four say something as they look around them:
'Come on - it's our turn to explore. Lucky I thought of the rope' (Roger - anything for a lark) 'We could go just a bit nearer. We can't possibly lose our way.
We've only got to come back here and follow their trail'
(Titty - optimistic and beguiled) 'A very little bit nearer might be enough' (Dick on the buzzard trail) 'Let's try' (Dorothea, ready for adventure)
Well, I'm now going to have a canter through the stories, and I'll pick out illustrations of how the individual characters move or redirect the plot. It's not a complete analysis, and of course there are episodes where the children are almost pawns; but this is my talk and I can say what I like!
In Swallows & Amazons there are perhaps three plots, all interlinked: the misunderstanding with Captain Flint about the firework, the boat-capturing war between the Swallows and the Amazons, and the losing and finding of Captain Flint's 'treasure'. It's because of the first plot, the misunderstanding, that the last happens: the Swallows aren't able to get Captain Flint to listen to the warning from the charcoal-burners about the burglars. John tries, in his own way, but he's too well-brought up to shout Captain Flint down and then is too upset at being called a liar. Back in camp,
John thought about writing a letter to the houseboat man, but he was no good at writing. Susan was even worse. Titty was the one for that, and Titty would not write the sort of letter that was needed.
I wonder what her letter would have said? Quite a lot of Treasure Island language in it, I should think - she's the one who wants to sink the houseboat. But it's just as well that Titty does read Treasure Island and so on, as it's because of her readings that she's convinced that the treasure is really there on Cormorant Island; and it is.
As for the third plot, the boat-capturing war, I like to speculate on whether any other Swallow but Titty would have captured Amazon. John would have confronted them; Susan would have parleyed; Roger would have argued; would any of them have acted so fast and bravely?
On with Swallowdale, and the day of the shipwreck. Poor John; we've all had days like that. He wants to impress the Amazons with a nifty entry into Horseshoe Cove, so he wants to beat the strengthening wind. But Susan is doggedly cleaning things, Titty is going on inexplicably about torches and Susan about salt, for heaven's sake.Today everybody seemed to be busy about something that didn't matter at all.
So across they go in a hurry, and he forgets his seamanship: he forgets that Amazon has a centreboard so can carry full sail, that the Amazons are starting from a different part of the lake and can choose their moment to turn, that the wind was much less when they turned into the cove. He tries to cut it fine and doesn't allow for gusts; the frightful result is due to his own character. A lesson to us all....
John then has a long-drawn-out struggle with himself about turning from a sailor into an explorer.There is something dreadful to sailors in turning their back on the sea;
Part of him can't leave the awful reality of having wrecked a boat, and wants to stay by the shore, and the other part is tempted by Titty's good invention of being explorers. His sister's idea is a better one and it wins; just as well - imagine the dull time they'd have had by the shore.
The other main episodes in Swallowdale are the ascent of Kanchenjunga, the two lost on the moor, and the race between the boats at the end. The important thing about Kanchenjunga is not whether it's climbed but when: Nancy takes it as a personal challenge to get the Swallows up it on the planned day rather than letting the Great-Aunt win. Susan, not understanding, wondersWhy couldn't Nancy have waited a day if the great-aunt was leaving?John, of course, knew thatNancy would not have been Nancy if she had.
Then, on the return journey, Titty is keen to go back across the moor; she wants to continue the adventure rather than just sailing home. When Roger jumps across the stream and sprains his ankle, Titty has an awful dilemma - whether to go back up on the moor now that she knows she's in the wrong place, or to follow the sound of the axe. So she thinksWhat would Susan do if she were here?
and, rightly, does what Susan would have done, just as in very different circumstances it's a good idea to thinkWhat would Captain Nancy have done?
Finally, the race between the two boats. A post-race analysis would tell us that John loses ground at the start by inefficiently not having his watch on; Nancy gains by intelligent thinking about the wind at the island, but then loses the race through a form of complacency: she's on home ground so automatically uses her usual route, diverting via Rio Bay and then not thinking about lifting her centreboard to nip over the shallows at the river entrance. John wins it by remembering a good trick that his mother had told him his father had used in a race. I think this is a race between the two characters, don't you?
I'm staying with the Lake books and going on to Winter Holiday, which I've already mentioned. The original idea of signalling to Mars gets the children together, and it's Dick's idea not Dorothea's:
You never knew with Dick. ...He never was able to make up stories like those that came so easily to her, and yet, sometimes, in some queer way of his own, he seemed to hit on things that made stories and real life come closer together than usual
- or certainly closer together than Dorothea's stories and reality! The Ds and the two younger Swallows make an interesting collection of characters - you remember my earlier example up in Greenland. When they're actually faced with the cragfast sheep, Titty is the anguished one - she's standing in for both John and Susan and is worried about the youngers, but knows it's her bounden duty to try to save the sheep. Roger in fact is the one who says'How are we going to get it down?'
Dorothea knows that Dick will see immediately what to do, and he does; Nancy was right about a scientist, if not an astronomer, being useful. The sheep is rescued, the Dixons are grateful, and Mr. Dixon starts thinking of ways to thank Dick. First the sledge, and then the sailing sledge, and the scene is set for the Ds' journey.
There's also the Fram subplot - one of Nancy's numberless offstage ideas. The moonlight expedition to the Fram is a totally unsatisfactory one, and a good example of what would happen to so many of the team's expeditions if Nancy weren't there. Peggy tries to be Nancy - but the plan is scuppered because she's afraid of sleeping in the Fram alone or even walking home alone. Wimp. I always knew it of Peggy.
Anyway, I must gallop on, with Picts & Martyrs as it's another of Nancy's offstage triumphs. She's the temporary head of the family, and much of what she does is to follow what she therefore feels is her duty, including hospitality to young guests.Nancy, in charge of Beckfoot, was a different Nancy.
When the blow falls with the arrival of the GA's letter, it's not Nancy who has the idea, though; it's Dick, who suggests that they should be badgers; Dorothea talks about Picts, and Peggy weighs in with the idea of the Dog's Home. There's a lot of onus on Dorothea, but she knows that
Nancy and Peggy down there at Beckfoot with the Great Aunt were going to have the really difficult time. And, whatever happened, she and Dick must not be the ones to let them down.
Dick just goes out birdwatching. His anxiety is reserved for whether they'll get to sail Scarab. Dorothea and Peggy are worried about being found out, but Nancy's determined that her guest Dick will have the holiday he expected, even if the accommodation - as so often on holidays - is below par. This includes ensuring that Dick and Timothy get to do their scientific experiments, even if that means organising a burglary.
'The only thing that would make it a failure would be for Uncle Jim to come back and find that you and Timothy haven't done those messes for him.'
Now imagine if Susan were there. The Swallows would never have burgled Beckfoot: John would have backed Susan up, Titty would have been too afraid; and the thought of Roger loose amid the chemicals in Captain Flint's study.... Makes me feel quite Great-Auntish.
Then the GA's own plot almost scuppers Nancy's; what saves it is that the GA squashes anyone who tries to tell her what's really going on. She's convinced that the Swallows are at the bottom of it, and she's convinced that Timothy is a baddie, and the Picts' and Martyrs' cover remains unblown through her own stubbornness of character.
Going backwards to Timothy's first appearance, in Pigeon Post, the characters of the grownups also have a big influence on the adventure here. Captain Flint typically forgets to send his letter about Timothy; Timothy typically dodges when faced with a pack of children; and Slater Bob indulges himself in telling the yarn about the gold. If these things hadn't happened, the team would probably have had some low-key adventures round the lake with Timothy - and Tyson's Farm would have burnt to the ground.
Tyson's would probably have burnt too if Titty hadn't found water up by the Topps. Titty herself knows that her feelings and actions will have an important influence on the adventure. She hasn't been able to bear the thought of dowsing again; but she can feel the abstaining silence of the others.
What if the whole expedition was going to peter out and come to nothing because of their having to camp in a place that could hardly be called a camp. ... What if Captain Flint were to come home? 'Well, and what have you been up to?' he would say, and they would have to answer, 'Nothing'. ... Suppose the expedition had its own water diviner, and the water diviner, just at the very moment of real need, was refusing to help them.
So one side of her character - her diffidence and superstition - is conquered by the other side - team spirit and reliability - and she saves the expedition.
In this adventure the misapprehension about the gold is so often nearly cleared up. Dorothea wonders privately to Titty in Chapter 8 about whether Squashy Hat knows about the gold; in Chapter 22 Dick twice suggests taking the first pinch of gold to Slater Bob, and Susan keeps pressing for it too - and they nearly do it, but then the Able Seamen go through the tunnel, meet Slater Bob and hear that he's in cahoots with the enemy. But the Amazons, Titty and Dorothea want there to be an enemy - and Nancy is the expedition leader. Imagine if the Amazons had gone to stay with the Swallows and so John and Susan were the team leaders: I bet Susan would have cleared it all up in a moment. However, I'll put in a plug for Susan here, as the miners would never have been allowed to go and camp where they did if she, the reliable one, hadn't been of the party, and this is true of a host of other adventures - Secret Water, for example, and the climbing of Kanchenjunga:
Really, if it had not been for Susan, half the Swallows' adventures would have been impossible.
Now I'm skipping to Missee Lee, because this is another adventure where grownups have a lot of initial influence. Captain Flint is determined to go to China despite the harbour-master's warning. It's not his fault that Gibber takes up cigar-smoking, but after the fire, when they're picked up by a passing junk in the night, it's his outbreak of rage - caused by his usual desperate responsibility for his friends' children - that gets him labelled as a violent and 'velly uncultured' prisoner; this causes a lot of tlouble - sorry, trouble - for everyone. And don't let's even mention the affair of the sextant....
But this is Loger's story, with his Latin, just as Swallowdale is perhaps Titty's story, Great Northern? is Dick's, The Big Six is Dorothea's and We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea is John's. Think of that first Latin lesson:
If it had not been for Roger, who had never thought that Latin would come in so useful, she might well have given up her idea there and then, in which case most likely the story would have ended at once. [Makes chopping action on neck]
Missee Lee's own character is of tremendous importance here: wanting her students, wanting to see them safe, wanting to do her father's duty. Titty's impulsive plea on behalf of Captain Flint must have struck right to her heart:'You couldn't learn Latin if you knew your father was a prisoner'.
It's Titty too who has the idea of the gorge. Missee Lee, the real female pirate, is almost more of a Titty than a Nancy.
Anyway, the other story named after a grownup (as Ken Thompson mentioned in his talk at the last Literary Weekend) is Peter Duck. It's Peter Duck's own character that makes him come aboard, and it's Captain Flint's treasure-fidgets that take them all across the ocean; even Nancy doesn't initially believe in the treasure. As for Black Jake, he's not a character but an occupational hazard, just the sort of thing that you come across if you're a jolly child created by Enid Blyton. No less than three of Blyton's villains are called Jake. Captain Flint does try to put responsibility for events onto Black Jake:
'I'm beginning to think we owe a lot to Black Jake. If it hadn't been for him you wouldn't have told us the story. If he hadn't chased us down Channel we should never have come so far. He's given us a loan of a very good able-seaman. That's you, Bill. And now it seems to me he's made things easy for us by blazing a trail down to the eastern shore.'
Hmm, well. I prefer the adventures where the plot turns on the interaction of the children - like my next one: We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea. LOTS of meat for my talk here, particularly in support of the idea of a combination of characters influencing a plot; and here we've got the Swallows on their own, without Nancy to drag the plot along by its collar - although I can't help feeling that she has long-distance power to shiver a few quailing crews' timbers at times in the story.
It starts with John and the bowline, as Jim Brading comes wearily home from the sea. It mightn't have gone further (I've caught mooring ropes myself and never sailed to Holland), but then John helps with the crutches and the plot begins. On the one side we have Jim, probably only about 18 himself and liking the idea of a sensible young crew; on the other side we have the children of a father who says to them 'Grab a chance and -' - all together now! [Ragged chorus of 'you won't be sorry for a might-have-been'].
On the fateful day itself, Jim is in a hurry to get down the harbour before the flood tide, so breakfast is postponed. Perhaps low blood-sugar leads him not to notice the oncoming bus, and perhaps tiredness earlier had allowed him to forget about petrol; it must be admitted that he does rather cause the disaster himself - rather like one of those John Cleese management videos: 'This is how not to run a tight ship'. Ransome is a little didactic about good seamanship sometimes... Anyway, according to Peter Willis, salvation is in sight for Jim Brading: Peter, in a Mixed Moss article, pairs him up with Susan in future life. That'll ensure he gets his breakfast first....
Back to my theme! Is it the Swallows' character that leads to the anchor problem? It does seem to be just John's inexperience, though there's another P. Willis theory about it being Goblin's character at work here, wickedly dragging her anchor and setting off to sea. Then there's the big question of turning back.
'Mother'd be wanting us to try.' (Susan) 'I don't believe she would - And Daddy wouldn't anyway.' (John) 'We can't keep a promise if it's already broken.' (Titty, talking in quite the Nancy manner.)
It's Titty who later thinksA real voyage at last - if only Nancy knew.But she continues in the turning-back debate'Let's do what John says. Daddy'd say the same.'
Titty is unexpectedly efficient in emergencies - or wars: remember her capture of Amazon. I'm just the same; if I'm in a flap it's a minor crisis, but if I suddenly become masterfully organised it's time to head for the lifeboats. Anyway, John makes his decision and does the right thing by putting Susan to familiar work:Susan found herself at the tiller - found herself watching the burgee away up there in the fog as she had often watched the flag at the masthead of the tiny Swallow.
Her doubts then come back, but the next crisis is warded off by Titty nearly being sick and going to bed.Susan, once more the mate with a job to do, wedged her in with rugs.
A useful lesson for us Johns and Nancies on how to manage Susans properly. Then there's the attempt at turning back - not to be read by anyone contemplating a sailing holiday - and then the reefing and 'all but OB'. This is plot influencing character, for a change, which is even better. John and Susan won't come out of this the same children that they went in. Finally, John's new idea, about pressing on to land.But what would Susan say to it?
Just like a company managing director, he wonders what the Chief Accountant will have to say. Then the story moves among grownups again and there are no more tests of character, except perhaps of Commander Walker's; which is an excellent lead-in to Secret Water, as the story starts with Commander Walker demonstrating again his flexibility in plans. Soon the Swallows are on their own, though. On the first morning, John is determined to survey the island. He's one of those slightly irritating people who always have the most unassailable reasons for doing what they think best, as we've just seen in We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea - though I think he should remember his error in Swallowdale occasionally. Off he goes with compass and surveying pole, taking very elaborate bearings on a harmless and firmly-moored farm. Titty, on the south'ard loop,found she could do quite well without surveying poles or the compass;
she's more interested in mapping than surveying, and probably won't have to pass navigation exams later for her job.
Then they find the Mastodon. He's an appealing character - friendly and uncomplicated. The slippery Eels are almost beyond him; he doesn't see any wrong in telling the Swallows; Nancy would have been appalled. He's more of an explorer than an Eel really, so he's a good link-man. As for the Amazons,'What a place for a war.'
It's pretty silly of John and Titty to envisage Nancy and Peggy earnestly surveying. Gold-prospecting is one thing - the stuff of adventure books - but a sort of geographical holiday task is another. What pitches Nancy into surveying is the nearness of disaster: like me, she works well to tight deadlines. But at the beginning, rather set back by the Swallows' having come over all responsible, we get a rare overhearing of her thoughts. She's already being philosophical and putting it behind her.
It certainly did seem a waste, but you couldn't have much of a war with a solitary savage and all the Swallows set on peace. ...Of course, it was different from the lake in the North where, even when in bed with mumps, she had always set the tune for everybody.
It must have been awful for the Swallows too - the three million cheers turning to dust. Titty tries to pull some of the plot out of the fire:'And it's all right being friends with the Mastodon?'
It's about then that Nancy has the germ of an idea, which grows into the blooding. I was interested, re-reading the book, to find that it's Roger's quick thinking the next morning, when Bridget wounds herself blackberrying, that allows the blooding to happen and saves the adventure. We'd forgotten about Roger; but I can't really see him getting a big thrill out of surveying. And then when the Eels arrive and capture Bridget, we start to realise that Secret Water is Bridget's story. How I used to envy her being taken prisoner. It's her character that moves the plot along here. John and Susan are onto a loser.
Bridget is important in the fate of the Red Sea expedition - the Egyptians, not the Israelites; but, re-reading the book, I see that it's everyone's fault. Susan is waiting for the water to go right down, Bridget wants to bring Sinbad, John is - guess what - surveying. Then during all the boatmen and garrulous grocers and telephoning, Susan untypically puts the cream buns at the bottom of the knapsack so that the youngers have to deal with them before the Red Sea crossing. The final distraction for Titty, trying to be a good leader to the two youngest, is when Roger finds the creek and mentions the map. In Titty's place, I'd be conscious that my elder brother has been upset and bothered by Amazons and bent rudders, and I'd snatch at this chance to cheer him up with a good new bit for his map; so off they go. It's Tittyish to leave a patteran first, and elderish of the others not to notice it.
So then we get Egyptians to be looked for, an unfinished map, a sudden deadline: everything needed to stir the two most resourceful members of the team into action early on the last morning, particularly as both of them have guilt to feel. Titty's guilty about the stranding, and Nancy because she eel-planned instead of getting on and doing Peewitland. Off they go, to produce the triumphant ending.
Nancy has a big hand in things in Great Northern?, where she (with John) has the idea of going to Mac's cove.
This was better than going into any harbour with buoys and lighthouses and shops and quays. Sailing towards an unknown coast, watching for a tiny break in the coastline.
Nancy more or less bulldozes Captain Flint into going into the cove in the fog - I once bulldozed someone in similar circumstances (something to do with a canal boat in pitch darkness), and very foolhardy it was too. Then, back in port, Dick comes with his tale of the egg-collector and Nancy at once sees that it adds a point to their voyage.''We were just cruising. This makes it a voyage of discovery.'
Captain Flint doesn't see the point, until the egg-collector cooks his own goose by rubbing up against Captain Flint's instinct of responsibility for his young non-relations.That does it, and they're off on a fully-fledged adventure.
'He's not mad but bad. ...He thinks Dick really has got hold of something and he wants to take the credit of it for himself.'There is a tremendous difference between just going somewhere and having an enemy to dodge.
Remember 'Sailing is so much more fun with a purpose'? 'Can we sail a little faster? said the skipper. Lend a hand; The crew have got a purpose and they're dying to be on land.' Nancy's in her element here. The one period of despondency and doubt among the crew is on board the Sea Bear when she's off on her awayday with John, seeing Gaels for herself. When she's back,Somehow, with the return of Nancy the gloom that had settled on the Sea Bear had lifted.
Nancy immediately sees that the two lots of enemies have got to be set against each other; I hope the War Office snapped her up later. Of course the one pair she can't organise are the Great Northerns themselves; these are very much Dick's baby, and all she can do is put together the usual multi-media full-orchestra Nancy happening to distract attention from his own adventure. As Dick thinks later,
Nancy's plans always did work, even if sometimes they meant that a lot of other people had to work too.
Meanwhile, though, the plot isn't exactly asleep under a stone while Nancy's not around. Everyone except Captain Flint is actively looking for adventure. When the younger crew members leave the scrubbers at work and set off inland,'Now!' said Titty.
'Now what?' said Dorothea.
'They're out of sight' said Titty.
'Yes,' said Dorothea. 'Anything may happen at any minute.'
Dorothea quickly picks up what Titty's thinking: 'we've got to create our own adventure'. Not that they need to, it transpires.
Now I'm going at last to Norfolk, to Coot Club and The Big Six. In the first, Tom in fact hatches his dark plan for the Hullabaloos because he's fed up with Port and Starboard for not leaving their father and going sailing with him. Once he's thought of it, though, his own character takes over - he can't not do it. With the possible exception of Port and Starboard, no-one else in the cast would have done it; nor would the absent Swallows, while as for Nancy, she'd be more for a major sea-battle, don't you think?
The plot continues with Mrs. Barrable sheltering Tom, with Dorothea enthusing Port and Starboard with the romance of the outlaw idea, and a string of reasons why the Teasel is at Potter Heigham at certain moments or not, encountering or dodging the Hullabaloos and George Owdon. Then there's the journey south, with various reasons why the Teasel leaves betimes and misses Port and Starboard. As for going aground in Breydon Water, it's all their silly faults except William's. Overall, though, it's back to Tom's typical action:There was No. 7 that had upset all plans and made this voyage possible,and the Hullabaloos' joy-riding round the Broads is brought to an end, as Mrs. Barrable says,'all because they moored on top of a coot's nest, poor things'.
Tom's action dogs him on into The Big Six, but I've got less to say about this one. It's a whodunnit, and in whodunnits the character-influences all move towards the crime on the one side and reaching the solution on the other. Probably the mystery would never have been solved without the Ds, who being outsiders can suspect George Owdon the local. What in George Owdon's character leads him to perpetrate his crimes? There's meat for a psychological essay there.
Finally, there's Coots in the North. For those who haven't read it, a boat is leaving the Horning boatyards by road, heading for the lake in the North. Mrs. Barrable is at least partly guilty here of giving the Death & Glories the idea of stowing away in her; but Joe is the prime mover, though I bet even he doesn't expect to land plop in a Nancy adventure within hours of their arrival. From what we can gather of how the story was going to continue, Nancy takes the idea of returning the Death & Glories to Norfolk as a splendid challenge; these lads are adventurers after her own heart.
Well, as E M Forster said,I believe that Ransome's books score well on this front because the children, being real of course, don't think of it as the end of the book - after all, there are
In the losing battle that the plot fights with the characters, it often takes a cowardly revenge. Nearly all novels are feeble at the end. This is because the plot requires to be wound up.'five whole weeks of the holidays still to go.'
I'll end with a quote from Mark Twain, in his introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:That's all. Thank you!
Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
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I am grateful to Jill Goulder for permission to place this paper on the Literary Pages