A Word Child (Vintage Classics) by Iris Murdoch

By Iris Murdoch

Kept from a antisocial early life by way of schooling, cheated out of Oxford by way of a sad love tangle, Hilary Burde cherishes his obsessive guilt and ekes out a residing in a lifeless civil carrier task.

When the guy whom he has harmed and betrayed reappears as head of his division, Hilary hopes for forgiveness, even for redemption and a brand new existence, yet unearths himself haunted through a ghostly repetition.

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Extra info for A Word Child (Vintage Classics)

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5 Keenly aware of the charges levelled against their works, authors of fashionable novels defend them with spirit. ‘Novels,—especially such as affect to treat fashionable life,—are born to such an inheritance of shame’, writes Mrs Gore, who interrupts the plot of Pin Money to complain of the critics, ‘[I]t is so much the custom of dull or silly people of all ages and sexes to reprobate them with a sentence of contempt as the most frivolous, flighty, useless, and condemnable productions of the press … that it becomes necessary from time to time to throw a heavy lump of marl on the surface’, something dull and tedious, ‘in order to deceive the dunces into a belief that some mysterious process of improvement is carrying on for their advantage’ (ii, 53–4).

61 Moreover, Mr Lloyd himself is the author of that ‘book in his window’, A Treatise on Hats, with twenty-four engravings and ‘now in its fourth edition’, so we have two advertisements in one. Lloyd’s customers, explains Real Life in London, ‘have only to refer to the engravings in Mr. Lloyd’s work, where every possible variety [of hat] is clearly defined, and to order such as may suit the rank in life they either possess or wish to assume’ [emphasis added] (i, 18). In short, in the daily papers and in Mr Lloyd’s book ‘dedicated to the head’, ‘all the senses are tantalized with profusion, and the eye is dazzled with temptation, for no other reason’, says the author, ‘than because it is the constant business of a fashionable life—not to live in, but out of self’ (i, 104).

Similarly, the reader looks for clues in Lady Birmingham’s scene and finds them on the lady’s richly furnished desk. It is from this power base that the parvenue Lady Birmingham commands the reluctant, grumbling deference of London exclusives, bidding them to attend the grand opening of her richly furnished new Regent Street house – which they most certainly do. The reader’s subjectivity, captured by this carefully managed display, is not misled. Lady Birmingham’s self-confident social power comes exactly ‘as advertised’.

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