Saturday, April 11, 2020

Edmund Crispin : The Case of the Gilded Fly, 1944 . An analysis.

David Whittle in his important essay "Bruce Montgomery / Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books" says that, precisely because in the novel there is an abundance of references to important personalities of British and non-British culture, someone had begun to suspect that the pseudonym Edmund Crispin concealed a Don (English meaning to represent a university professor, especially a "senior member" of university college who is from Oxford or Cambridge): "In the first few pages Montgomery mentions or quotes from authors such as Beerbohm , Dunbar, Eugene O 'Neill, Shakespeare and Voltaire, leading reviewers to suspect that "Edmund Crispin", the pseudonym Montgomery adopted, was an Oxford don or indeed a further alias of JIM Stewart (already known as Michael Innes), himself later an Oxford don and already an established writer of detective fiction "(page 44). Interesting is the genesis of his pseudonym and the name of his character: Montgomery used as his privileged source a novel by Innes, Hamlet, Revenge !, in which a character is called "Gervase Crispin". The surname was taken for that of his pseudonym, while for first name he opted for Rufus (because of his red-colored crown), then for the more serious Edmund (probably he drew the inspiration of this name, from the first school in Oxford to which he had been admitted, named after Edmund Spenser, Elizabethan poet). Instead the name of the character of Innes, became the name of his character, to which he added by surname, Fen, meaning that together with others evoked his Oxford tutor, Professor W.G. Moore also called "O'er moor and fen", which had served as a model for physical appearance.
At first Crispin denied Moore was the inspiration, but years later he admitted the circumstance: "..Years later Montgomery admitted that Fen was based in part on Moore, but as with most detectives, I think there is a good deal of his creator in him ". (page 45)
Montgomery was not inspired by Moore for the character data of his character: in fact while Moore was the classic senior professor of Oxford, Fen instead followed a way of doing that was taken, for his humor also fat, for his eccentricity and sometimes also for the verbal expressions of which he is the bearer by John Dickson Carr's Gideon Fell (referring to a more detailed discussion on the subject).
Having ceased his activity as a novelist and musician in 1950, he devoted himself to police criticism, writing on Sunday columns, not moving more or almost from the periphery.
Bruce Montgomery was wildly addicted to drinking - as was his pygmalion, J.D. Carr was to smoking - he suffered from related problems and died in 1978, a year after Carr's death.
The Case of the Golden Fly, published in 1944, was the debut novel by Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin: well received by critics and the public, the derived success prompted the author to continue the series that had just begun.
Crispin's correspondence and correspondence have shown that Diana Gollancz, daughter of the publisher Victor Gollancz, was of crucial importance in Montgomery's very early career. The essay written by David Whittle, Bruce Montgomery / Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books, which talks about the musical and police works of Montgomery / Crispin, shed light about this friendship: ".. she was an art student at the Slade, which had beeen evacuated from London to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford ... Diana was certainly captivated by Montgomery's urbanity. She was a pretty, dark, Middle-eastern looking girl, and she was a regular visitor to tea at the Montgomery’s rooms, in Wellington Square. Muriel Pavlow recalls that Montgomery was very enamored of Diana an talked about her a good deal "(page 34).
Then their paths split because Bruce met another woman.
Whittle's own essay reiterated the great importance of Carr's influence on Crispin. The genesis of The Gilded Fly seems to have been induced, as he later revealed, by an interview he had had with a friend in a pub, with whom they often spoke of books: "... How the conversation got round to John Dickson Carr I can't quit remember, but I do remember the tone of mingled reproof, reproach and amusement with which my friend said: "Oh, haven't you read John Dickson Carr? ... and he lent me a copy of The Crooked Hinge "(op.cit. Pag.34). The work was written "..during ten days of the easter vacation of 1943, using" his J nib and silver pen-holder ".
It was to Diana's father that Bruce submitted his manuscript.
On April 21 (1944) he wrote to Victor Gollancz: "
“My dear Mr. Gollancz, I have just finished a detective novel (now in process of typing) and am wondering if it would be of any interest to you…”.
Evidently Victor Gollancz liked the manuscript ,who nevertheless expressed his perplexities in this regard. One of these concerned the fact that, although living in an invented College, it is evident that Montgomery had inserted a multitude of real things into it: for this Gollancz demanded that Montgomery insert a disclaimer in which he warned that things and people really were not. In the same 1944, the novel was published by Gollancz: “As the setting of this story is a real place, more or less realistically described, it must be emphasized that the characters in it are quite imaginary and bear no relation to any living person. Equally fictitious are the college, hotel and theater in which most of the action takes place, and the repertory company I have portrayed bears no relation to that at Oxford, or indeed anywhere else that I know of.
Diana Gollancz, not even on purpose, was included in this novel. In fact, both Montgomery and her appear in the form of supporting characters in the story: Bruce is, with his actual name, the pianist who accompanies Yseut on the piano at the request of Robert (pages 34-35); in the case of Diana Gollancz "..Robert Warner, the director of the company, has a Jewish mistress (Diana Gollancz was Jewish)" (page 47), but Diana appears in the same cast of the production directed by Warner, as a minor figure : " Diana? Where's Diana? " (The Gilded Fly, Cap. 4. In the Mondadori translation it is on page 47).
Again for Bruce, we must also mention what he puts in the mouth of Donald Fellowes, the young lover of Yseut who for her is a toy, organist in Oxford: “As soon as this term's over, I'm going to volunteer for the RAF It seems to contain most of the organists in the country anyway "( Page 47). According to some critics, the statement was a way to quote himself (most of the organists in the country anyway): “- Jean I decided. At the end of the year I join as a volunteer in the R.A.F .. It seems that a large part of the organists of the nation are found there”(page 162, chap. 12). Whatever Bruce's acknowledgment for Diana, he also expressed himself in music, since Two Sketches for Pianoforte op.1 n.4 dedicated it to her.
In The Gilded Fly, not even on purpose, Crispin inserted a splendid Locked Room, with an absolutely ingenious solution.
The plot is as follows.
A theater company must stage the play by Robert Warner, Metroman, in Oxford, which is already announcing itself as an announced success. However, in the company everything does not go as it should. In fact, there are two women competing for Robert: Rachel West, his lover, who should be the first woman in the drama; and Yseut Haskell, who, far from being discharged by Robert some time ago, tries to catch him with the only weapon available to him, that is, with sex. Moreover, Yseut Haskell's sexually promiscuous lifestyle and her condescending way of treating men have earned her many enemies among discarded lovers and jealous female rivals.
The advances towards Robert lead to a scorching climate that both Robert and Rachel are paying for, and also Donald Fellowes, a young organist madly in love with Yseut, which she uses as a screen, playing with the love of the other. The beauty is that Donald is in love with Jean Whitelegge, a groomer, also involved in the spiral of hate, created by Yseut, who did everything to alienate the sympathies of his colleagues, both female and male, for his very lifestyle promiscuous and exhibitionist, quite the opposite of sister Helen Haskell, also an actress.
So at a party organized in the house of an officer who attends the company, Captain Peter Graham, in which all the actors of the company, the playwright, that is Wagner, and the director of the show, Sheila McGaw, Yseut, took possession of the gun of Order of the officer, completely drunk, threatens the rival. Obviously she is disarmed, but that is enough to ruin the atmosphere.
Some of the bystanders particularly hates Yseut if it is true that someone, on the following night, takes advantage of the drunkenness of some of the participants in the party and of the landlord, to steal the gun, with related ammunition, from a drawer in which it was placed after Yseut had been disarmed. And not even to do it on purpose, the next evening, here Helen's sister dies! She is found in the bedroom of the apartment of the young Donald Fellowes, organist and choir director, desperately infatuated with her: she is on the ground, with her legs folded, one arm under her body and another with her hand turned towards the high, and in front a hole and the upper part of the face, blackened and scorched; near a large revolver; on the right hand, on the knuckle of the right ring finger, there is a large ring of unusual shape, representing a golden fly, while in the room opposite, just Fellowes and the young intellectual Nicholas Barclay, a former student of Fen who is now doing the journalist, they are listening to symphonic music on the radio. At the same time, upstairs, Gervase Fen, professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, Warner and others are discussing about dramaturgy. Moreover, a witness, the factotum, Joe Williams, who practically sat in the corridor that separates the two doors of the compared rooms, excludes someone could have entered the room where Yseut was staying. In addition, the window of the room in which Yseut was found closed. The only strange detail is that an open drawer is found, as if the victim had knelt to look inside and been surprised by death. The police necessarily favor a strange suicide, although the victim would have had only to lose by killing herself, yet nobody seems to have killed her. In the company circles, however, nobody believes in the suicide of the young woman, despite the atmosphere has calmed down, even if an important pawn of the representation has been missing; even Robert seems to have gotten rid of a bad memory. Only Gervase Fen will announce that suicide cannot have been and instead he will do everything to prove the murder of Yseut, having no evidence and being debated by the duty to report the murderer, who has removed a person who is after all harmful to the surrounding environment , whose identity he presumes, but not having enough evidence to nail him. However, his guilt, his ifs and buts, fall, when an innocent falls: Donald Fellowes. Following this death, Fen will come out of the closet and will nail the murderer.
Edmund Crispin's debut novel is a real beauty: it proposes many guilty if not simple suspects in the evolution of history, but who have hidden the nature of their acts so clumsily as to attract the surrounding interest and in particular that of Gervase Fen , who manages to identify the real one among them, eliminating the rest.
However, Fen's attitude is similar to many of his other colleagues: he is not the person in charge of the investigations, if anything he helps him with his logic and his acumen, and therefore he is not interested in bringing the offender to justice; he is an amateur who takes part in the action only as a pastime, a bit like Fell or Sherringham would, and he is interested in confronting the killer and defeating him, as for him the investigations are like a chess game with the killer, and the moves the killer makes to escape the detective's attack may also consist of other murders. And even here there is a second crime which is a gratuitous act, which serves two opposite purposes: that of the murderer to protect himself, as he had protected himself by killing the first victim (even if the second victim does not ultimately give him pleasure which had caused him the first), and that of the detective to proceed, despite the fact that at first he did not want to do it, since the killer here was nice to him. And, precisely for this reason, he will grant him the possibility that he can get away with it ... by killing himself.
The Locked Room is very interesting, I would say one of the most interesting that I have ever read, and I would say that it can be on the same level as one of the best of JDCarr, despite, if you judge in hindsight, being able to kill with this skill, it is not for everyone, once the solution to the novel has been acquired: in a room with closed windows, the victim is found, with a bullet hole in the middle of the forehead, with evident signs that suggest that it was shot point-blank and a gun abandoned nearby. So the clues would seem clear, to suggest a very evident suicide. Because they would seem to suggest that the bullet was fired at that moment, that is when the sound of the shot is heard. What you don't understand (and the reader doesn't understand it either) is why that person should ever kill herself! If the disappointed lover had killed himself, sidelined when Yseut spent the night with Warner and bragged that he had, no one would have said anything. But instead Yseut, who put in place a whole series of tricks to show off and attract the ex-lover Warner to herself, would have been the last person to decide to suppress herself. Furthermore, close to her, very curious clues were found: a drawer presumably opened by the victim (but why then should she have killed herself?), And a curious ring that inserted right on the knuckle, that is, on an uncomfortable and unusual part of the finger , suggests that not the victim (because the left hand prints are missing if she really had put it on) but the killer inserted it: why?
The Locked Room is also very close, strangely, to that in La Mort vient de nulle part by Alexis Gensoul & Charles Grenier, a very rare novel of 1943, containing one of the most beautiful locked rooms ever read, and available recently in english language , Death out of Nowhere ( in the LRI publication by John Pugmire and Brian Skupin). In this regard, one would wonder if Crispin has ever read this novel, because the construction of Crispin's Locked Room is strangely very close to the previous one year of the French, of which it is a sort of simplification. Although it is sometimes ascertained that two different authors may have had the same idea: for example, the two cousins ​​Ellery Queen had the same idea as Christie about a novel, and they left it out.
Some peculiarities of this novel seem interesting to me: first of all the fact that evidently Crispin had in mind Carr's ability to create apparently insoluble puzzles and then brilliantly solve them with the use of logic only, when he set about writing this novel. After all, the same name as the main character has been directly correlated by all with that of Carr's character: Gideon Fell - Gervase Fen. In fact, in both cases we have G.F.
Many have instead escaped the cultured value of this first novel in which there are abundant quotations and hidden references (even to the Italian public, it is good to say) both literary and musical: perfectly in evidence, and explained in the last pages, it is the last thing done by Fellows on the organ, after being mortally wounded, that is, a succession of keys, pressed on the organ, each appealed differently from the others, whose initials, as in an acrostic, form a name, that of the murderer. It is evident here, a possible Queenian derivation, with the dying message, "The Dying Message". But not equally explained, are other cultured references: for example the third work cited (albeit cryptically): the Tristan and Isolde by Robert Wagner (almost similar to Robert Warner).
Everything is seen through the relationship between Yseut / Isolde and Robert Wa (r / g) ner: like Isolde in the polite tragedy, she kills herself on the body of the beloved, so Yseut seems to have killed herself because overwhelmed by the unhappy love for Robert Warner . Crispin explains, in chapter 1, with a love of Yseut's father for Tristan, as a French medievalist scholar, the origin of the name Yseut: for this purpose, the second chapter, entitled Yseut, presents, as subtitle, the verse of Tristan in which Yseut is named: “
Ahi! Yseut, fille du roi, Franche, cortoise bone foi”, but at the same time it does not explain the character of the Yseut - Robert relationship.
There are, however, many other references, not only to musical works, but also to examples of literature tout court, as if they were well-known to the target audience (I don't think the average American or English reader is particularly introduced to this display of culture) : in chapter 1, on page 10, Sheila McGow compares the rural life of Desire Under the Elms by Edward O'Neill (based on the clash of creative and destructive passions of family members: the adulterous relationship between Abbie, wife of Ephraim, and the brother-in-law Ebel, and the infanticide of the son of Abbie and Ephraim sacrificed to Abbie's passion for Ebel), to the representation of the bucolic life of his interlocutor, to understand in the end that between the woman and the man there could be no dialectical contact points. Likewise Bruce Montgomery mentions several of Shakespeare's plays: Cymbeline and King Lear, Troilus and Cressida, Coriolano, Pericles are mentioned directly; instead, to understand that you speak of Timon of Athens you must have read or heard about Phrynia and Timandra (the two prostitutes who are mentioned in Chapter 12); even to understand that in  Chapter 6 we are talking about the tragedy Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, you should know that
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot
it is a verse of Act III Scene I, as always on the same page of chapter 6, it is difficult for anyone to understand that the "Claudio" quoted not even in italics (“Just as for Claudio the fact of virginity had been nothing compared with the fact of death”) refers to the interpreter of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Prospero of the comedy The Tempest is also mentioned “ Prospero, I am developing an obsession about marriage”.
Of Goethe are mentioned:
Torquato Tasso: "
Then I think,' said Nigel with sudden inspiration, `that you should read''
Goethe's Tasso. More or less, it's a study of how far the artistic temperament
can go in defiance of society.". (Chapter 11).
Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities): “Bless you, Gervase said Helen lightly. How long have you two known one another? said Nigel suspiciously. And do you want to be left alone? It's a Wahlverwandtschaft said Fen. Isn’t it, Helen? Stop this abominable flirting, said”(Chapter 10) ;
Faust (Mephistopheles): “All right, Mephistopheles, the blonde interrupted with spirit, we know anything outside your infernal, Byronic charm is anathema. You can get me another drink now, if you like. I'm going to gold-dig you for all I'm worth this morning.
Nicholas rose with reluctance. There are times, he said, when I wish that Timon’s comments on Phrynia and Timandra had been a little more subtle and little less openly offensive. They'd come in so useful”(Chapter 12).
Heine, on the other hand, is widely quoted through the dialogues of a parrot, who declaims Die Loreley after hearing someone in turn declaim the two initial lines of Mallarmè's L'après-midi d'un faune: (it would be Ces nymphes, je les veux perpétuer.
Si clair, Leur incarnat léger, qu'il voltige dans l'air Assoupi de sommeils touffus. Aimai-je un rêve?): "It had been given to the proprietor of the Aston Arms in a fit of lachrymose gratitude by a visiting German professor, and was in the habit of reciting a lyric of Heine, which feat, however, it could only be induced to perform by the careful repetition of two lines from the beginning of Mallarme's L'Apres-midi d'un Faune ..and the raucous tones of Ich weiss nicht, was solle es bedeuten, dass ich so traurig bin… He apostrophized the parrot in French: it became launched on Die Loreley ... Die schonste Jungfrau sitzet dort oben wunderbar, the parrot was saying in heartfelt tones… Und das hat mit ihrem Singen die Lore-Ley getan,' the parrot concluded with hoarse triumph, and fell abruptly silent: "(Chapter 10).
"The Gilded Fly", the golden ring found on Yseut's finger, a copy of an Egyptian present in the British Museum, which gives the novel its title, is another reference to Shakespeare. Fen talks about it in the Epilogue: “The ring,' - Nigel persisted. Fen drank deeply; he appeared unwilling to be reminded of the subject. Purely a baroque flourish on the main structure,' he said eventually. `A little cynical personal touch. I didn't recognize the reference until I happened to mention the Gilded Fly in the same breath with Mr Morrison's slogan. It was partly, I think, an ironic salute to Yseut's main interest in life, and partly an intimation of "measure for measure". By sex she lived; by sex, or because of sex, she died - a poetic retribution. The ring just happened to be a handy symbol. Few
murderers can resist decorating. 'But what is the reference?' Nigel asked.
`These people have cut the play about so badly,' said Fen, 'that one doesn't know where it will turn up. But if I remember rightly, it's in Act IV, scene 4”.
But in Act IV scene 4 it there isn’t. It is instead in Act scene 6: Adultery? Thou shalt not die. Die for adultery? No. The wren goes to ’t, and the small gilded fly  Does lecher in my sight.
The allusion to Yseut of the golden fly is clear.
Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice in Wonderland, is also remembered. In fact Fen, dozing off during a conversation, wakes up with a start, with a small cry, "like the Dormouse": the Dormouse, sits between the Mad Hatter and the March Hare in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Chapter 7).
In addition to these, there are other quotes and allusions, which refer to works and authors even less known than the previous ones:
“Mr. Puff, as he knows all this, why does Sir Walter go on telling him?” (chapter 10) taken from the comedy The Critic by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, great Irish playwright and theater director, who lived between the second half of the eighteenth century and the first of the nineteenth;
the proverbial French expression: "revenons à nos moutons" (= let's go back to our sheep, that is, let's go back to our speech; end of chapter 10) is taken from a Comedy of the XV century (by an unknown author) "La Farce du Maître Pathelin ";
the character Vander (
Julius Vander, in The Professor, would appeal to you very much”refers to the perfect fascist Julius Vander, one of the characters of the second of the three novels by Rex Warner (pervaded by anti-fascism ), The Professor (1938): if I didn't make it clear when I talked about the Yseut / Robert relationship, I point out here how Crispin could also have looked at Rex Warner as well as Robert Wagner as the origin of his own character Robert Warner;
Finally the description that Chaucer makes of Criseide (Cressida), in his poem Troilus and Criseyde:
Unmistakably feminine - he thought of Chaucer's
description of Cressida -But alle her limes so well answennge,
Weren to wommanhode; that creature
No's never lasse manmissh in seminge.
As Chaucer rejoicedd in the, transcendental,: the surpassing womanliness of
Cressida, so he rejoiced in that of Helen.
(Chapter 9 )
To cite all the references, you could write a treatise rather than an article! Because are they still mentioned:
She said meditatively: `I think Phyllida and Corydon must have ended up
with a lot of bruises.' (Chapter 13). Phyllida and Corydon is a poem by Nicholas Breton, British playwright of the second half of the sixteenth century;

“Yes, good heavens. She looks exactly like Hedy Lamarr. What a capture!
"White as the sun, fair as the lily, An odd comparison. Is the sun white?”.
The verse "white as the sun, fair as the lily" is taken from the poem Diaphenia: " the daffadowndilly, White as the sun, fair as the lily, Heigh ho , how I do love thee! " by Henry Constable, British poet of the second half of the sixteenth century;

I know all the scandal, am in fact a latter-day Aubrey (Chapter 8) : John Aubrey, was a seventeenth-century English philosopher, antiquarian and writer;

Christopher Marlowe, nicknamed Kit, was a sixteenth-century British playwright, poet and translator, who was named on several occasions: first of all, a quote from him at the beginning of the novel, immediately after the title of the first chapter, which is missing from the Italian edition: “Hast thou done them? speak; Will every savior breed a pang of death?”And which refers to Massacre at Paris (Massacre of Paris), Scene II, according to the Duke of Guise's speech: “Now shall I prove and garden to the full, The love thou bear ' st unto the house of Guise: Where are those perfum'd gloves which late I sent To be poison'd; hast thou done them? speak, Will every savor breed a pang of death?”. (The massacre to which it refers is The massacre of the Huguenots), then there is another quote from Marlowe in Chapter VIII, immediately after the quote from Aubrey, already mentioned: If I remember rightly, he went so far as to insist that it was Ben Jonson who killed Marlowe. It is the point where Barclay is credited as a privileged source for the police since as a modern Aubrey he would know all the scandals, and Fen lessens his claims by saying that if it is true that Aubrey had a spontaneous and delightful sense of humor, that he drank like a sponge, etc., it is also true that he had said incorrect things, for example when he said that Ben Jonson had killed Marlowe;

He evoked the image of a monstrous and farreaching
persecution. `Here am I on the horns of a Cornelian dilemma . Fen refers to Pierre Corneille, playwright and writer of the first half of the seventeenth century (chapter 14);
 , English poet, who converted to Catholicism, from the first half of the seventeenth century;

He was returning to Oxford from one of those innumerable educational conferences which spring up like mushrooms to decide the future of this institution or that, and whose decisions, if any, are forgotten two days after they are over, and as the train proceeded on its snail-like way he contemplated with mournful resignation the series of lectures he was to deliver on William Dunbar and smoked a great many cigarettes and wondered if he would be allowed to investigate another murder, supposing one occurred. The passage refers to William Dunbar, Scottish poet who lived at the turn of the second half of the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth (Prologue in Railway Trains);

Jean smiled. `The skull' beneath the skin,' she said. 'I'm a little morbid
myself.' Her voice became suddenly guarded.  The passage refers to T.S.Eliot, twentieth century British poet: "the skull beneath the skin", is taken from the poem Whispers of Immortality, vv. 1-2: “Webster was much possessed by death and saw the skull beneath the skin ..”. In 1982, citing the same expression, P.D. James titled his own novel with Cordelia Gray, The Skull Beneath The Skin;

Accompanying the title of the tenth chapter “Blooming Hopes Fortfeited”, the quatrain
What could possess you, in a critic age,
Such blooming hopes to forfeit on a stage?
And it was it worth this wondrous waste of pains
To publish to the world your lack of brains?

is from Charles Churchill, eighteenth-century English satirical;

“A sweet disorder in the dress,' said Nigel, `kindles in clothes a
Wantonness”  (chapter 13) refers to the first two verses of poem A Sweet Disorder by Robert Herrick, poet British poet who lived in the seventeenth century: "A sweet disorder in the dress / kindles in clothes a wantonness" ;

He was discovered in his room, putting the final, touches to his notes on the
case. `The police have definitely decided it was suicide,' he said, 'so these’
he pointed to the small heap of papers - `will have to be put in cold storage
for a while. By the way,' he added, `I've decided what I'm going to do.' He
handed Nigel a small sheet of notepaper.
On it were three words, from one of the satires of Horace: Deprendi
miserum est. (Chapter 13)
The verse refer to Latin Poet Horace: “Sermones”, Liber I Satira 2, vv. 132-134 : discincta tunica fugiendum est et pede nudo,ne nummi pereant aut puga aut denique fama.deprendi miserum est: Fabio vel iudice vincam;

Fen grunted, gazed at his beer with distaste, and swallowed half of it at a
gulp. Just such an expression must Brother Barbaro have had when, at
Francis' behest, he swallowed the ass's dung. Whisky was unobtainable at the
`Aston Arms' (Chapter 10). The comparison refers to a fact that happened to Brother Barbaro (one of the friars of the very first circle of St. Francis of Assisi) on the Island of Cyprus. The request of Saint Francis is not attested. It was the will of the same friar to put some donkey dung in his mouth to punish himself for offending another Franciscan friar;

something of his normal manner, went away snorting with annoyance
and deploring the influence of M. R. James on the very young. It refers to Montague Rhodes James English author and medievalist scholar (Chapter 13);

“Mrs Fen shuddered elaborately, 'I never did like Volpone: It's cruel and
grotesque.”. This passage refers to “Volpone” by Ben Jonson (Benjamin Jonson) British poet and playwright, one of the greatest of the Elizabethan theater (Chapter 12);

“The question is: is it worth while for anyone to hang for murder of that young woman? It seems she used her sex in the most debased manner possible - as a means to power, like Merteuil”. The passage refers to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos and his "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" (Fen compares Yseut Haskell to the Marquise de Merteuil). (Chapter 8);

At the moment he was engaged in a strenuous dissertation on the merits of Wyndham Lewis : it refers to Wyndham Lewis, twentieth-century British painter and writer (Epilogue);

Andrew Marvell, seventeenth-century English metaphysical poet: the expression
The grave's a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace is taken from "To His Coy Mistress" (beginning chapter 8);

Edward Lear, nineteenth-century English illustrator, writer and poet : the passage Would you believe it, a pupil of mine had the impertinence the other day to tick me off for reading, him passages regarding the Fimble Fowl and the Quangle-Wangle as an illustration of pure poetic inventiveness”  refers to his poem “The Quangle Wangle's Hat”(chapter 8);

 "The Questing Beast", refers to a legendary monster present in the Legend of King Arthur, and is also the title of chapter 11. The greedy Beast is the metaphor of sex (which is the basis of the incest and then the violence and chaos generated by the incestuous sexual relationship between Arthur and his half-sister Morgana, from whom Mordred was born): "You know what holds this business together, Nigel? Sex - the Questing Beast: That's the root and origin of the whole thing. Reduced to its essentials, it's the coupling of the monkeys in Wilkes’enclosure ". About the Questing Beast they talk again at the end of chapter XV (when Fen remembers that  the questing beast was in fact, at the root of this business, though the actual motive was security”).

The only name for which I "hypothesize" (and I do not "certainly provide") an attribution of which I am not 100% sure, concerns Mr. Herbert Morrison.  Crispin mentions him in two passages: In the doubtless immortal words of Mr Herbert Morrison, we must go to it ( chapter 9), and at the end of novel : “A little cynical personal touch. I didn't recognize the reference until I happened to mention the Gilded Fly in the same breath with Mr Morrison's slogan”   . It could be that Crispin had referred here to Mr. Herbert Morrison who during the Second World War was Minister of the Interior and National Security: it is the only possibility that I would have to contemplate.

When we talk about musical references, the matter is always the same: almost never in the translation do we feel the need to integrate the reading with the textual reference, which, however, is also missing in the original text of the novel, as if Montgomery even more guilty believed that the his novel was to be the patrimony only of readers belonging to the most refined intelleghentja rather than to the common reader: so when he talks about what Fellowes and Barclay were hearing at the moment when it is thought that Yseut was killed, he first refers directly to the Meistersinger Ouverture by Wagner
, then he cites the piece The Hero's Works of Peace: you should have sensitivity and at least non-secular knowledge, musical, to know that that song is the original Des Helden Walstatt, fourth episode of Ein Heldenleben ( A Hero’s Life), Symphonic Poem op. 40 by Richard Strauss, even if, later in the novel, Crispin refers precisely to the title of the work Heldenleben (not specifying who composed it): playing the Meistersinger overture, in fact you remember Heldenleben didn't begin until immediately before Warner joined us”. Again about  references or musical quotations, it should be remembered: “Dyson in D”  (chapter 8). Probably refers to one of the evening liturgical services that George Dyson, English musician of the twentieth century, composed , one Vesper in D Major) and “the Dyson Magnificat”(Chapter 13). At last “I'm
playing a very difficult Respighi Prelude as a voluntary on Sunday” (Chapter 8) and “Nigel remembered Fen showing them a few faint but unmistakable red stains on a copy of the Respighi Prelude which lay open on the organ desk” (Chapter 13).

There are also various references to novels or to crime writers.
Crispin remembers James Hadley Chase when he quotes the novel whom Captain Peter Graham read while he was on the train :
his attention torn between the conclusion of “No Orchids for Miss Blandish” (Chapter 1)
More interesting is when he remembers John Dickson Carr: in fact it seems to me Crispin resorts to the same device adopted by Boucher in Nine Time Nine when he talks about Fell:
-`Lord, Lord, what a fool I've been! And, yes - it fits absolutely characteristic. Heaven grant Gideon Fell never becomes privy to my lunacy; I should never hear the end of it.' He gaped. (Chapter 10). This passage means to place Fell in his time, like a real and his own investigator, that is, decontextualizing it from Carr's works. But it also means accrediting yourself as a friend of Fell: a nice presentation, no doubt about it, in a debut novel! A pimply way to say that whoever wanted to read something like Carr, who was not necessarily Carr, knew what to buy.
Crispin then takes the habit of amusingly mentioning Carr's most famous character, Gideon Fell: at the end of the first period of Chapter 10, we read
When he looked up, however, he
appeared to be in his customary high spirits. He was muffled in an enormous
raincoat and had on an extraordinary hat.”
And again from Carr he draws one of the best known literary characteristics: the supernatural aspect that in Carr's novels initially impregnates the narration creating the evocative atmosphere. In fact, even in this first novel, we find a story, a sort of supernatural re-enactment, which ends where it begins, completely enucleated by the rest of the story, in which in front of Fen is told a story that happened a long time before in College, linked to an inscription "Cave ne exeat", to a ghost, and to an unsolved murder, which has no connection with the rest of the story and which serves, however, only to prepare the atmosphere, and to give the killer the opportunity to create a unique staging , seen and considered that, as soon as the story ends, a gunshot is heard:
Nigel remembered his story, told on that fatal Friday evening (only two days ago? It seemed more like two years) and looked instinctively into the antechapel where John Kettenburgh, too militant champion of the reformed faith, had been hunted to death by Richard Pegwell and his associates. `Cave ne exeat .."Vex not his ghost-... `Superstitious terror? Oh, you mean. Wilkes' fairy tale., It's time that particular college ghost was laid once for all. I've taken the opportunity of investigating the business, and I've discovered a dirty bit of work, which you may have guessed at, As I suspected, the President at that time wasn't at all the sober, more-things-in-heaven-and-earth character
that Wilkes led us to believe, but simply an old fool who'd got his position by nepotism and influence. And you must remember that all the ghost part of it, apart from one or two easily explainable atmosphere incidents in the chapel, came from Archer, the dean; Parks, it seems,
never mentioned his nocturnal "adventurer" to anyone else. And a very pretty piece of invention it was, too, though the business about John Kettenburgh and the chapel wall gave it a convenient cadre. The relationship between Archer and Parks was, it seems, of such a discreditable kind that in those puritanical times not a whisper of it could be allowed to come out, Then Parks decided to do a bit of blackmail, and Archer polished him off, concealing the weapon heaven knows where
before the others arrived.' 'Good God,' said Nigel, profoundly shocked. `But how did you guess?'
'All that dog-latin, of course. What youth in his senses would bellow out a latin invocation for deliverance while being clubbed to death, even by a ghost? What he really shouted was the name of the man who was killing him. And as he was a church organist and not a classical scholar,
I'm willing to bet he used the ecclesiastical pronunciation, and said ch for c. But I. suppose that tale Archer spun, coming from a convinced rationalist, shook them a bit, and as they weren't very bright and he was a highly respectable man, they didn't tumble to it. He must have had some uneasy moments, though. No wonder he turned churchman!' `Supernatural, my dear Holmes,' said Nigel, who was in fact, genuinely impressed; and added: `In more senses than one. What about Wilkes'
theory of the ghost operating through the living?” (Chapter 13)
However Fen really qualifies as a rank investigator! One of the most enjoyable moments is when he invites Nigel Blake to reflect on the points that underlie his solution:
“And now, the crime itself. Concentrate on the following points:
‘(1) the fact that the wireless was playing the Meistersinger overture, followed by Heldenleben - a rich teutonic concoction;
‘(2) the fact that there was a smell of gunpowder smoke in the room when we entered it;
'(3) the fact that nothing was touched for at least a quarter of an hour after we came in.
‘If that doesn’t give it you,’ he concluded, comfortable in the assurance it would do nothing of the sort, ‘then you’re an imbecile.”
The moment seems very interesting to me because Fen turns to Blake as his assistant, as if he was Holmes and Nigel Blake, Watson (it must also be said that in Fen's novels there is no fixed Watson, but the assistant changes), but even more because in my opinion we find ourselves in a situation that is much reminiscent of Queenian or Austinan typical manner : the Challenge to Reader": a moment in which the author, through his protagonist, throws a fight to the reader, reminding him of the focal points that would serve come to the solution, to see if he too can achieve what his detective has managed to understand.
Finally, it seems interesting to me to underline how, even in this case, the staging prelude, in a Locked Room novel, to a spectacular solution. In this case, it is particularly so, because it presents two distinct moments in which it is characterized: if, however, we often have, in similar novels, first the realization of the staging, that is, the scene is rigged, and then we have the real crime, here in a totally ingenious way, Crispin makes a reversal, giving precedence to the crime over the rigged scene. This has its importance, as it serves to give an alibi to people who instead, if the crime had followed the trick of the scene, would not have had. But the thing that interests me once again to underline is that the crime in Crispin is connected to a moment in which a certain fact occurs that the educated reader should have perceived, who had known the music of Wagner.
We are therefore in one of the rare cases of detective literature in which the cultural approach is not a purpose in itself, that is not a mere display of culture, but has its function in the plot.
In addition there is a whole series of literary quotations, enjoyable and all very interesting, in addition to all those already expressed, which sometimes recall authors already mentioned, sometimes they introduce new ones (I explain to whom they refer):

Hast thou done them? speak;
Will every savor breed a pang of death?
The couplet (vv. 14-15) is taken from Scene 2 of The Massacre at Paris


Ahi! Yseut, fille de roi, Franche, cortoise, bone foi .. .
The passage is taken from The Romance of Tristan, code of the XII century, of Beroul: vv. 100 and following


There stood of yore, and Barbican it right… Where infant punks their tender voices try, and little Maximins the gods defy.
(poet, playwright, and seventeenth century English translator). The verses are taken from his Satire Mac Flecknoe (1682)

Pray for me, or my friends; a visitant
Is knocking his dire summons at my door,
The like of whom, to scare me and to daunt,
Has never, never come to me before ...
Anglican pastor then converted to Catholicism, ordained priest, then elected cardinal, doctor of the church and theologian. It had a huge influence in England and the USA. He was proclaimed blessed in 2010. The quatrain is taken from The Dream of Gerontius

I have seen phantoms there that were as men,
And men that were as phantoms flit and roam
Scottish poet of the nineteenth century. The couplet is taken from his famous poem (in his time) The City of Dreadful Night (1874)

The extreme nudity of bone grins shameless,
The unsexed skeleton mocks shroud and pall.

Who can tell what thief or foe,
In the covert of the night,
For his prey, will work my woe:
Or though wicked, foul despite?
Refers to the song Shall I come, sweet love by Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

But none I think, do there embrace
English poet of the seventeenth century. The verse is taken from the metaphysical poem To His Coy Mistress


How! A woman ask questions out the bed?
It is a passage taken from "Venice Preserved, or A Plot Discovered" by Thomas Otway, an English playwright who lived in the seventeenth century.

What could possess you, in a critic age,
Such blooming hopes to forfeit on the stage, and it was it worth this wondrous waste of pains,
To publish to the world your lack of brains?
English poet, also satirical, of the eighteenth century. The tercet is taken from the poem "The Rosciad"

And aloof in the roof, beyond the feast, I heard the squeak of the questing beast, where it scratched itself in the blank between the queen's substance and the queen.
English writer and poet of the nineteenth century. Member of the Inklings literary circle to which Tolkien and Lewis belonged. The passage is taken from the Arthurian poem The Coming of Palomides

Non other lyfe ", said he," is worth a bene; For wedlock is so esy and so clene.
The expression is taken from The Merchant's Tale, tenth novel of The Canterbury Tales

A dirty pillow in Death's bed.
English poet of the seventeenth century, who converted to Catholicism. The verse is taken from the elegy Upon the Death of a Gentleman contained in the collection of poems The Delights of the muses.

No, Will it not be yet? If this will not, another shall.
Not yet? I shall fit you anon. - Vengeance!
English playwright of the sixteenth century. The two verses, the nos. 79-80 are taken from his most famous tragedy TIS PITY SHE'S A WHORE, which deals with the theme of incest.

“Live we for now
Time is unstable
Vain is the vow
Broken the fable ... “
- Maxwell [sic]
Nothing is known to whom he referred by mentioning Maxwell. In any case, the reciting of the quatrain seems to some to be very close to Lucio Anneo Seneca.

Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, Like diamonds, we are all cut with our own dust.
Great English playwright, contemporary of Shakespeare. The verse is taken from the tragedy The Duchess of Malfi
Pietro De Palma


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