Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 16, 17 and 18

Chapter 16
  • Through Lady Lyndon's porter, Barry gains access to all her correspondence and is thus able to stalk and pursue her while making it appear that she is pursuing him.
  • He kidnaps Lady Lyndon's lady in waiting, Miss Amalia Kiljoy, and marries her to Ulick. By this and through other threats he shows his determination to get Lady Lyndon.
  • She flees to England but Barry goes on ahead, making it seem like she is following him. Her family and society picks up in this, which further drives her towards Barry. By using this and bribing her servants, Barry is finally able to marry Lady Lyndon on 1773, taking the name Barry Lyndon.
Chapter 17
  • After a short introduction, the second part of the novel has Barry travel with Lady Lyndon to Hackton Castle where he spends his time abusing her and her assets by redecorating and gambling. Indirectly, he effectuates an old curse stating that when a certain rookery should fall, so should the castle.
  • He buys back the marshy lands of his ancestors but still takes a dim view of Ireland.
  • Barry and Lady Lyndon starts being apart. The latter is mistreated.
  • He has bad luck at gambling but consorts with Dr. Johnson, Boswell and other famous personages (as referred to in the opening chapters).
  • He enters politics and wins a seat in Parliament from Lord George of the neighbouring Tiptoffs, relatives of Lady Lyndon, who are exceedingly hostile towards him.
Chapter 18
  • Barry finds Lady Lyndon intolerable and troublesome and only manageable when her son is used as leverage or when coaxed.
  • His son by Lady Lyndon, Bryan, is portrayed with fondness and Barry tries to secure peerages for himself and his son. Bryan is fond of Bullington, who is sent to Ireland where he grows rebellious and embraces Catholicism. After two years he returns and is continually in conflict with Barry.
  • The Tiptoffs keep spreading stories of Barry's mistreatment of Lady Lyndon, Bullington and the estate, stories which Barry characterises as slander. However, more often than not, these stories seem to be true.
  • After having been beaten half to death by Barry, Bullington flees the house and volunteers for an English regiment in the American war of independence. This is pounced upon by the Tiptoffs, who thinks that Barry raised a regiment in order to have Bullington join it and be shot by a hired assassin. Later, he is said to die in just such a way.
  • Meanwhile, disgraced at court and increasingly poor, Barry and his family goes to Paris where he spends more money, gambles, pawns heirlooms and cheats on Lady Lyndon. When France declares war on Britain in 1778, he returns and moves on to Ireland for financial reasons.
  • News of Bullington's death are presented as one of the very few positive elements.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 13, 14 and 15

Chapter 13
  • Barry meets Lady Lyndon, her husband Sir Charles and their son, Viscount Bullington.
  • He gambles with Sir Charles and befriends him. Sir Charles complains about Lady Lyndon, who is an intellectual and admired bluestocking whom he does not love and who does not love him.
  • Sir Charles is dying, so Barry decides to go for Lady Lyndon. His first step is to befriend her chaplain, Mr. Runt.
  • He gets an Irish priest to write letters on transubstantiation for him and in this manner gets into Lady Lyndon's circle.
  • Sir Charles realises what he is up to and is amused, though he tells Barry to marry for love. Barry, however, states that he is only after her money since she has no other charms.
  • Sir Charles takes his good time to die, but as Barry is about to marry another wealthy widow, he does so and Barry returns to Ireland to find Lady Lyndon.
Chapter 14
  • In Ireland, Barry visits all the places he had been to earlier and meets with several old acquaintances. He notes how everything seems to have diminished in quality and speaks slightignly of most things. Castle Brady has been abandoned, Tim, the servant has become tremendously fat, everyone has multiplied and Irish towns and society holds a lower standard than what he remembers from his youth.
  • He pursues Lady Lyndon, bit gets lukewarm response. He imitates the extortionist Captain Fireball and threatens to kill her other suitors.
  • He almost kills Lord George Poynings, her primary suitor in a duel over the pedigree of a horse and uses this to set an example for Lady Lyndon.
  • Having met Ulick, he formulates a plan for his advances on Lady Lyndon.
Chapter 15
  • Having been given advice by his uncle, he pays court to Lady Lyndon.
  • After having wounded Lord George, he finally goes to visit his mother after a year in Ireland.
  • He hints of his plan to his mother, then goes off to deal with Lord George, who maintains his suit from his sickbed.
  • He professes his love for her to him, threatens to murder him, boasts (lies) of his feats and finally shows him Lady Lyndon's letters to him.
  • The letters are almost similar to those sent to Lord George, who is disgusted and rejects Lady Lyndon. Barry meets her afterwards, follows her home, declares his love for her and threatens to publicise her letter if she does not agree to marry him.  Terror, he claims, "is not a bad ingredient of love" (OUP 2008, 218). Tipping the porter handsomely for his future business, he takes his leave.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 10, 11 and 12

Chapter 10
  • Barry and his uncle leaves Mannheim for the Duchy of X__ where everyone gambles. He describes the Duke, his son Prince Victor and his wife Princess Olivia and moves on to the subject of marriage.
  • He sets his sights on (the estate of) Countess Ida. She wants to marry a sub-lieutenant but the princess does not allow it. It is thought that the young Chevalier de Magny is her intended husband.
  • In order to secure her hand, Barry amasses a considerable gambling credit from Magny. He then threatens to tell the Duke and Magny's grandfather, a respectable general whom he is to inherit. He also threatens to reveal that the princess has given him an heirloom, a famous emerald. He uses their liaison to break off the affair of Magny and Ida and effectively silences both the princess and Magny, using the latter as a pawn.
Chapter 11
  • Barry ingratiates himself with the Duke and the Prince and gets betrothed to the Countess, much against her will.
  • Meanwhile, the affair between the Princess and Magny continues. Barry gives Magny the emerald and he pawns it to a Jew who blackmails the lovers for money. Later, Magny is arrested for the attempted murder of this Jew.
  • Being held in house arrest for six weeks, Barry and his Uncle learns of the events as they unfold.
Chapter 12
  • The story changes setting, to London 1790 where Barry meets the mistress of the old Duke who tells him how said events unfolded.
  • Monsieur de Geldern, the police minister, frames Magny for the attempted murder of the Jew. He is forced to commit suicide by poison in prison by Prince Victor, who has discovered the love affair.
  • The old general de Magny dies from paralysis and grief, the old Duke dies from apoplexy and a pie and the princess is removed to another castle where the Prince has her secretly beheaded. The Prince then recalls all military companies from foreign service. Countess Ida marries the sub-lieutenant and gambling, opera and ballet is forbidden.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 7, 8 and 9

Chapter 7
  • Barry enters the service of Captain de Potsdorff, nephew and heir to the minister of police, as an ordinance. He brags about his former merits to the Captain and then tells of his slyness in his service.
  • He writes a letter to his mother. The answer makes him homesick.
  • He overhears the police minister advising the Captain to withhold any promotion of him, and when he is sent to spy in the Chevalier de Balibary, who turns out to be his Roman Catholic uncle (Balibary being a latinisation of Ballybarry), he gives himself away on purpose.
Chapter 8
  • Barry joins forces with his uncle and together they spend the days gambling. They work out small reports for the Captain.
  • The Uncle is on a spying mission for the Austrians.
  • They develop a gambling language and play several important personages.
  • Barry reports back a pre-planned story to the Captain. When he reports that Prussian officers had been gambling with his uncle, the captain plans to have him arrested and sent out of the country. Since any promotion is denied him from the Captain's hand, Barry resolves to swap places with his uncle, bringing two pistols.
Chapter 9
  • The scheme works and the Uncle soon joins Barry in Dresden, having caught the Captain trying to burglarise his red box of intelligence and had him sent off to Spandau prison.
  • Barry decides to abandon military life and take up a full time gambling career with his uncle.
  • He discusses whether gambling is disreputable and claims it is no more so than other professions.
  • He tells many stories of success and failure, about the nobility they played and claims that women likes "to play [...] but not to pay" (OUP 2008, 130-131)
  • An associate of theirs, the impostor Count Alessandro Pippi, drugs them and makes off with their funds. They pawn their clothes and jewellery and continue gambling.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Mark Knopfler's Songs About War

There are many ways to write songs about war. Some songs are angry, some are eager but fortunately most can be understood as anti-war songs. Of these, Mark Knopfler is one of those who in my opinion is most successful in describing the powerlessness of those who suffers because of war; soldiers, civilians and those left behind. This is a collection of his best anti-war songs with a reference to the war in question where applicable.

Brothers in Arms
from the album with the same name, one dedicated to an anti-war agenda.

The Man's Too Strong
from the same album. Who is the man? A father would be an authority figure. So might a dictator. In a family, there might be no distinction.

Done With Bonaparte
from the solo album Golden Heart. This clearly refers to the Napoleonic wars, but notice how the last verse foreshadows the Second World War.

Remembrance Day
from his most recent album, Get Lucky. This is about the First World War as indicated through the title and specific topical wording. This song beautifully concludes the list, showing how small the individual becomes in war and how great our obligation to the victims should be.

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 5 and 6

Chapter 5
  • An officer in Barry's regiment, Lieutenant Fakenham, is struck by a bullet. Barry and a private carry him to Warburg, but on returning he is struck unconscious and robbed of the reward by the private.
  • He is laid up in the same house as Fakenham and decides to go mad in order to stay there with nurse Lischen.
  • He steals Fakenham's identity and deserts, fleeing to Cassel. Here, he meets a Prussian officer, Monsieur de Galgenstein who accompanies him towards Düsseldorf.
  • On the way, Barry tells the story of Morgan Prussia, who joined Frederick the Great's "giant regiment". He pretended to have six brothers, left with money to enlist them and settled on a farm with the money.
  • That evening, in a guest house, Galgenstein blows his cover and forces him to enlist in the Prussian army. In an interpolated tale, Barry describes how Galgenstein was later hanged as a spy. Barry is taken off towards the army compound.
Chapter 6
  • In the transportation, Barry meets a pastor candidate who appears as an educated and morally clean version of himself. Upon arrival in a hospital, he tells his story and that of several of their travelling companions. Upon arrival he is drafted into a regiment in Pomerania.
  • In the prison dorm, Barry gets acquainted with Le Blondin, a blonde Frenchman who later stages a mutiny, bringing the soldiers' burden to the forefront.
  • He then meets Fakenham again and, having had a laugh at his expense, gives him a piece of advice which procures his liberty.
  • Barry gives some general notes on being a soldier in the Seven Years' War. He prefers the Prussian army to the English and is rewarded by General Bülow. He keeps out of harm's way through threats.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter 3
  • On his way to Dublin, Barry first meets Captain Freeny, the highwayman, then Mrs. Fitzsimons, an impostor. The Fitzsimons invite him to stay with them and during his stay, Barry's financial reserves are nigh depleted. By the time Barry sees through their scheme, they see through his.
  • He is turned out of the house and debts and the threat of exposure forces him to join the army and thus flee Ireland.
Chapter 4
  • Barry, headed for Germany and the Seven Years' War, keeps getting into squabbles on the ship. Fortunately, Captain Fagan boards the ship and keeps him with money and protection. He reveals to Barry how the duel was arranged and after a while gets him promoted to the rank of corporal. Fagan also keeps him with money.
  • Barry narrates how the Seven Years' War would appear from the soldiers' point of view but confesses that he does not fully understand it. He doesn't have a high opinion of military life; he ponders desertion, gambles and gets into squabbles and speaks slightingly of British valour.
  • He tells of his killing of a French colonel and his young ensign, Fagan's death and how he and some other soldiers came to a house, drank the wine of an old woman and her daughters then burned their house down. All this is narrated surprisingly dispassionately.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Dangerous Rhetoric in David Cameron's Speech Outside No. 10

Yesterday, in a speech outside No. 10 Downing Street, David Cameron addressed the nation with regards to the riots. In his speech, he used words and phrases which were not only dangerous but also presenting viewpoints and solutions not necessarily of a constructive nature. His rhetoric did in no way adress the deeper, more complex causes of the disturbances but aimed rather to cure the symptoms in a tone of populist demagogery.

Dire times does to some extent call for stern measures and this is undoubtedly Cameron's greatest challenge so far in his PM career. It is, however, doubtful whether this way of addressing the issues at hand does not make for a widening of the chasm between the conflicting parties and makes later measures more challenging to implement.

To really understand the nature and wider connotations of Cameron's rhetoric, take an initial look at the excerpts below. They are taken out of context in order to show their dangerous implications more clearly. Then, read them in context.

it is quite clear that we need more, much more police on our streets and we need even more robust police action.

we will make sure that court procedures and processes are speeded up and people should expect to see more, many more arrests in the days to come.

You will feel the full force of the law


Cameron condemns scenes of violence

Tuesday, August 9 2011

The Prime Minister this morning announced that Parliament would be recalled on Thursday in order to respond to the violence and looting in London and other cities.

David Cameron condemned the scenes of violence. Speaking outside Downing Street he said:

"I have come straight from a meeting of the Government's COBRA committee for dealing with emergencies where we have been discussing the action we will be taking to help the police to deal with the disorder on the streets of London and elsewhere in our country.

"I have also met with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Home Secretary to discuss this further. And people should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets and to make them safe for the law abiding.

"Let me first of all completely condemn the scenes that we have seen on our television screens and people have witnessed in their communities. These are sickening scenes, scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing. Scenes of people attacking police officers and even attacking fire crews as they try to put out fires.

"This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated. I feel huge sympathy for the families who have suffered. Innocent people who have been burned out of their houses and to businesses who have seen their premises smashed, their products looted and their livelihoods potentially ruined.

"I also feel for all those who live in fear because of these appalling scenes that we have seen on the streets of our country. People should be on no doubt that we are on the side of the law abiding. Law abiding people who are appalled by what has happened in their own communities. As ever police officers have shown incredible bravery on our streets in confronting these thugs, but it is quite clear that we need more, much more police on our streets and we need even more robust police action. And it is that that I have been discussing in COBRA this morning.

"The Metropolitan police commissioner said that compared with the 6000 police in the street last night in London there will be some 16,000 officers tonight there will be aid coming from police forces up and down the country and we will do everything necessary to strengthen and assist those police forces that are meeting this disorder. There's already been 450 people arrested, we will make sure that court procedures and processes are speeded up and people should expect to see more, many more arrests in the days to come.

"I am determined, the Government is determined that justice will be done and these people will see the consequences of their actions. And I have this very clear message to those people who are responsible for this wrongdoing and criminality. You will feel the full force of the law and if you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishments and to these people I would say this, you are not only wrecking the lives of others, you are not only wrecking your own communities, you are potentially wrecking your own life too.

"My office this morning has spoken to the speaker of the House of Commons and he has agreed that parliament will be recalled for a day on Thursday so I can make a statement to parliament and we can hold a debate and we are all able to stand together in condemnation of these crimes and also to stand together in determination to rebuild these communities. Now, if you will excuse me there is important work to be done. Thank-you."


Source: Conservatives Homepage, 10.08.2011

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Two Satirical Poems About One Man

Jonathan Swift's A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General and Robert Southey's After Blenheim both take a satirical approach to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. One of Winston Churchill's ancestors, he served as a general in the British Army, most notably in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) where he famously won the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

Both poems give interesting comments on war and warmongering contrasting the glory and skill of soldiering with the death and devastation of war. They both exhibit the tone which would appear more prominently in war poets such as Wilfred Owen two hundred years later.

A few notes...

A Satirical Elegy

  • The poem is written in iambic tetrameter. In English, heroic verse, a form traditionally used in epic and dramatic poetry, is iambic pentameter. The missing iamb, then, signifies a lack and reflects the satirical content in form. The rhyme is masculine end rhyme in couplets (aabbccdd...)
  • The elegy as a poetic composition usually laments and pays tribute to someone who has died. However, Swift does the opposite, making this the second formal reflection of satirical content. For my post on the mock-epic, click here.
  • Swift's satires were, in general, Juvenalian ones. These are opposed to Horatian satires, which are gently mocking folly. Named after Horace, the Horatian satire is fairly sympathetic while Juvenalian satire, named after Juvenal, takes a more scornful view of its target, which is evil rather than folly. Juvenalian satires are more likely to use dark humour and sarcasm and see no hope where Horatian satires do. Swift's comments on Marlborough here are distinctly Juvenalian.
  • A few explanatory notes:
    • Swift takes a scornful view of the life and achievements of Marlborough which is shown amongst other things in the lines mentioned below.
    • Line 6-8: This refers to the final judgement. According to Swift, Marlborough will not do well at the last trump.
    • Line 16: Swift emphasises the physical and unpleasant for satirical effect. This he commonly did, perhaps most notably in The Lady's Dressing Room. For my discussion of this satire, click here.
    • Line 17-22: Nobody grieves for him because he caused enough grief "in his day".
    • Line 26: The praise of the general is like a bubble; seems substantial , but is hollow and easily undone.
    • Line 32: This line refers to Genesis 2.7 albeit with a twist. While Genesis states that "[...]God formed man of the dust of the ground [...]", Swift claims that Marlborough sprung from dirt, which has slightly different connotations. See my note on line 16 in relation to this.
After Blenheim
  • The poem is written in alternating iambic tetra- and trimeter. The final couplet consists of two lines of iambic tetrameter, decisively ending the stanza but also disrupting the metric pattern. The masculine end rhyme follows an abcbdd pattern in all stanzas, except the second which plays a disruptive role. Here, the word found is repeated in the fourth and fifth line, adding tension and changing the rhyme pattern to abcbbb.
  • The ballad was originally sung, which accounts for the first four lines, corresponding to the four line ballad stanza. This, coupled with alliteration, also accounts for the relatively harmonious feel of the poem.
  • Where Swift uses the properties of the elegy to create a sense of the uncanny and grotesque, Southey does so with those of the ballad. Incidentally, Freud's "uncanny" is discussed in these three posts.
  • The effect of the poem stems largely from the combination of the peaceful, sunlit setting, the violent events discussed and the old farmer's repeated insistence that the victory was supposedly great and famous.

What do you think? 

In both these poems, structure is used as much to produce an emotional response as content. What do you think of this strategy? Is it a necessity of satire? Does it help the satire along or does it obscure the message of the poems and mar their content? On a slightly different note, do the reader have to be aware of standards of structure to be affected by the form of the poem? If so, how much awareness or literary competence is required?
The Tale of Sir Bob appreciates your input!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 1 and 2

Chapter 1

  • The Barries came to Ireland with Simon de Bary who was given a piece of land for his services during Richard II's military intervention. (This would have been in 1394-95)
  • During Elizabeth I's reign, Roderick "Rory" Barry was in a feud and a passing band of English soldiers under Roger Lyndon offered to aid. Having successfully ended the feud, the English stay with the Barries, causing Rory's son Phaudrig to plot their deaths. His sister, however, who was enamoured of Lyndon warned him and the English killed the Barries and seized their land.
  • Henry "Roaring Harry" Barry, protagonist Redmond Barry's father was famous for his skills at fighting, hunting and riding. He converted to Protestantism to be able to legally inherit the estate in the place of his older, Catholic brother who goes on to join the Jacobite uprising and feature prominently later in the novel. It also allows him to marry Bell Brady, the local beauty and Redmond's mother to be.
  • On the point of being provided for by George II, Harry dies. Since he had spent the family fortune, Bell and Redmond returns to Ireland and is invited to stay with Michael Brady, Bell's brother at Castle Brady.
  • When Bell's poverty becomes apparent she leaves Castle Brady on Mrs. Brady's insistence. In spite of this, his mother stays respectable, according to Barry.
  • Barry is invited to stay at Brady's. Here, he is beaten by Mick, the oldest son, but fights back. He spends his days looking for and getting into fights.
  • He claims he had great talents, but ran away from school because of the Latin lessons.
  • He relates an interpolated episode where he meets Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Oliver Goldsmith and bests them in discussion.
  • He satirically comments on ladies' passivity in courtship and muses on a reversal of roles. In doing so he uses language of violence and conquest.
  • Furthermore, he relates the story of his first love, his coquettish cousin Honoria Brady (christened by Jonathan Swift and eight years his senior).
  • The country starts preparing for a possible French invasion and Barry meets a number of officers. Nora practices her coquetry on him, so much so that when she abandons him for the English Captain Quin, he takes desperate measures. He runs the horse he and Nora is riding into the river, nearly drowning them both and he ends up in a fever. While confined to his sick-bed, he writes poetry to Nora and discovers her and Quin together. He challenges him to a duel and Nora's reaction disgusts Quin, who tries to break off their relationship. At that moment, Mick, to whom Quin ows a sum of money, shows up and joins the fight.
Chapter 2

  • Nora feigns a faint during which Quin escapes.
  • Barry ponders his faith and bemoans his lot for some hours. Then, at dinner, he learns that Quin and Nora are in fact engaged to be married and in consequence, he flings a class of wine at Quin. This act serves as a duel challenge. Mick and his younger brother Ulick, who has tended to take Barry's side against his brother, follows Quin home, presumably in order to stop him from running away.
  • Barry is followed home by another officer, Fagan, who unsuccessfully tries to dissuade him from duelling. Barry is offered to apologise and be paid by Quin to go to Dublin, but refuses the offer.
  • At the duel, Barry is told to aim at Quin's neck. They use Quin's pistols and as Quin's death seems staged and Barry is urged to leave three times, the duel might be rigged.
  • At Ulick's insistence, Barry adopts Redmond as a surname and leaves his mother's house for Dublin.
Source: Thackeray, W.M.: Barry Lyndon, Oxford Paperbacks, New Ed., 1999