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Maria Lectrix

Public domain audiobooks, six days a week, for folks with a Catholic taste in literature. Enjoy! Clan Honor Mondays: Fitz-James O'Brien works. Lit Tuesdays: Short stories, novels, or poems. Acts of the Wednesdays: Early Christian works. Mystery Thursdays: Mystery short stories or novels. Lit Fridays: Short stories, novels, or poems. Saintly Saturdays: Later Christian works.

Mary reading to ChristA Vatican Library catalog page, 1518

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

#38: Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour by R.S. Surtees, Part 1

We continue Huntin', Shootin', and Fishin' Week with part 1 of Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour, the story of a fox-hunting, rich wife-hunting man of limited and mysterious means but great resource. I think it is funny stuff, with a surprisingly undated attitude.

Surtees is one of those English writers of whom other English writers speak with great affection, but this is the first time in my life I've been able to read anything by him. So far, Mr. Sponge's trip is not only a funny story but a very sharp examination of the early Victorian period, missing nothing, but not as bitter about life as Thackeray.

Becky Sharp was never all that likeable. Mr. Sponge at least has some natural virtues to offset his anti-hero status. However, these are usually counteracted immediately by some tiny indication of cruelty to his horses or similar, really unsportsmanlike or ungentlemanly offenses, so that you won't like him too much. It's an interesting tightrope that Surtees walks.

Now, it probably helps if you know a bit about horses and a bit about Victorian fashion. But I don't think that's essential. You get used to letting the context just pour over you in books set in different times and places, and a comedy from another time and place is no exception. You probably didn't understand everything Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett were talking about the first time you read them, either; but they were still funny.

(And yes, there are two chapters named "Laverick Wells". Not a typo.)

Chapter 1: Our Hero
Chapter 2: Mr. Benjamin Buckram
Chapter 3: Peter Leather
Chapter 4: Laverick Wells
Chapter 5: Mr Waffles
Chapter 6: Laverick Wells
1 hr 30 min


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