Evelyn Waugh & Father Brown

Brideshead Revisited is on my List of Deserted-Island-Books

One of the most powerful metaphors in the book, and I never spotted it’s origin. Delightful —
thanks to whoever pointed this out, you made my day! 😀

In Evelyn Waugh‘s novel Brideshead Revisited, a quote from the Father Brown story “The Queer Feet” is an important element of the structure and theme of the book. Father Brown speaks this line after catching a criminal, hearing his confession, and letting him go: “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” Book Three of Brideshead Revisited is called “A Twitch Upon the Thread,” and the quote acts as a metaphor for the operation of grace in the characters’ lives. They are free to wander the world according to their free will until they are ready and receptive to God’s grace, at which point He acts in their lives and effects a conversion. In the miniseries made by Granada Television adapting Brideshead, the character Lady Marchmain (Claire Bloom) reads this passage aloud.

Source: Wikipedia article on Father Brown






Grundyism /grun´deeıs∂m/.

1. (noun): a prudish adherence to conventionality, esp. in personal behaviour.
2. (noun, lowercase): an instance of such prudishness.

Origin 1830-40 – Mrs Grundy was a character in Thomas Morton’s play “Speed the Plow” (1798). Play and playwright are now forgotten, but the line »What would Mrs. Grundy say?« became proverbial.


ribaldry – Rib”ald*ry, n. [OE. ribaldrie, ribaudrie, OF. ribalderie, ribauderie.]

  1. The talk of a ribald; low, vulgar language; indecency; obscenity; lewdness; – now chiefly applied to indecent language, but formerly, as by Chaucer, also to indecent acts or conduct.
  2. ribald humor

ribald – Rib”ald, n. & a.[OE. ribald, ribaud, F. ribaud, OF. ribald, ribault, LL. ribaldus, of German origin; cf. OHG hr[imac]pa prostitute.

  1. Noun. A low, vulgar, brutal, foul-mouthed wretch; a lewd fellow.
  2. Noun. The ribalds (aka lechers, harlots, etc.)formed the lowest class of society in the feudal ages; originally travelling mercenary soldiers, serving any master far pay, they afterwards degenerated into mere banditti.
  3. Adj. Low; base; mean; filthy; obscene.
  4. Synon. Bawdiness; bawdry.

Ribaldry is the little black duckling-sister of pornography and erotica. Ribaldry’s primarely aim is usually not to be sexually stimulating, but rather to poke fun at la condition sexuèlle. Nevertheless, it has been frequently a subject of censorship. Ribaldry verges on the territory of satire. It has not been popular in the 20th and 21st Centuries (sofar!) – the current trend being for quick, explicit, straight to the point, no nonsense fast-sex.

Some examples:
Petronius: Cena Trimalchionis
The Golden Ass
Carmina Burana
Geoffrey Chaucer:
“The Miller’s Tale” (Canterbury Tales)
Laurence Sterne:
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Jonathan Swift:
The Lady’s Dressing Room
Mark Twain:
Russ Meyer:

Shakespeare’s Bawdy by Eric Partridge: A glossary of the Bard’s smut, indecency, and innuendo on Goodreads

20120229-185932.jpgEric Partridge was a logolatrist, specialising in ‘bad language’. In this classic work from 1947 he combined his knowledge of Shakespeare & of Elizabethan slang and innuendo, resulting in, as he described it himself , “a literary and psychological essay and a comprehensive glossary”.


According to studies, there are fourteen distinctive characteristics that differentiate a healthy eccentric person from a regular person or someone who has a mental illness (although some may not always apply). The first five are in most people regarded as eccentric:

  • Nonconforming attitude
  • Creative
  • Intense curiosity
  • Idealistic
  • Happy obsession with a hobby or hobbies
  • Known very early in his or her childhood they were different from others
  • Highly intelligent
  • Opinionated and outspoken
  • Noncompetitive
  • Unusual living or eating habits
  • Not interested in the opinions or company of others
  • Mischievous sense of humour
  • Single
  • Usually the eldest or an only child

Edith Sitwell, who wrote the aptly called book The English Eccentrics (1933) — and was a fine example herself— in a typical photograph: