Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Before parody

“Know, prince, that when Alphonso set sail for the Holy Land--Is this a season for explanations? cried Theodore. Father, come and unite me to the princess: she shall be mine--in every other thing I will dutifully obey you. My life! my adored Matilda! continued Theodore, rushing back into the inner chamber, will you not be mine? will you not bless your--Isabella made signs to be silent, apprehending the princess was near her end. What, is she dead? cried Theodore: is it possible? The violence of his exclamations brought Matilda to herself. Lifting up her eyes she looked round for her mother--Life of my soul! I am here, cried Hippolita: think not I will quit thee!--Oh! You are too good, said Matilda--but weep not for me, my mother!” – Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

Much as English has changed since the 18th century, I’m sure “you are too good” has always sounded like a response to being offered a slice of cake.

[The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, Thomas Lowndes, 1765. Startlingly influential gothic story – and about the worst-written “classic” novel I’ve read, not excluding Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii. It is short, however, and some of the jokes may be intentional.]

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