Fun. Courtesy of the Suzy Covey Comic Book Collection in the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. Click on image to enlarge it.]. William S. Brunton (fl. 1859-71).
This heavy-handed descendant of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock and other works that use the mock-heroic to satirize the war of the sexes displays this mode’s usual devices — the high diction of epic and bardic poetry, inversions of the normal order of syntax (“Thrashed was Emily” and “Loud rings the voice”), and repeated formulaic descriptions (“Emily, of the fair hair” and “Spinks, of the big whiskers”). The legal system in general and the divorce court in particular come in for mockery as the author continually undercuts the diction and phrasing of Homer and Anglo-Saxon poetry with silly names, such as “Twistwam, son of Twistwam,” and brief prosaic phrasing that deflates elaborate sentences. When the attorney representing Emily, of the fair hair, describes the husband carrying her “to the land of Luban, where the eastern extremity of the rain-bow dips into the mists of Tara,” the judge asks, “Where?” and the response is the prosaic “Aberdeen.” As in all uses of the mock-heroic the satire tends to cut both ways, for although the primary targets are obviously the trial, the lawyers, and the married couple, applying epic devices to their situation also implicitly mocks these devices and the poetic universe from which they come.
The twenty-first century reader aware of the seriousness of spousal abuse and the difficulties Victorian women encountered when seeking protection from the legal system may find this spoof not funny at all, except in so far as it mocks the court. Complaints that “insufficient was the housekeeping money” and the evidence of crushed bonnets” obviously trivialize actual occurrences of well-documented violence against wives. [Oh yes, the original article does have “brown Jones” with the lowercase “b” throughout. Not sure why. — George P. Landow]
There is a murmur in the Halls of Wilde. Far and wide had spread the rumour that the sorrows of Emily, of the fair hair, would that day culminate in the Courts of Divorce. Loud as the rushing winds are the words of scorn with which her lord, brown Jones, is received as he stalks into the Halls of Wilde. Little heeds he, and in proud disdain he curls his upper lip until it hurts him. Twirls he his long moustache. But a settled gloom is on his brow, and the ghosts of long-dead cruelties rise up before him, and shriek their accusations into his ears.
What form is this that stalks, with solemn pace, unto the upraised judgment seat? It is the form of Wilde, once Baron the Exchequer, now Judge of the Halls of Divorce. Eagle-like is the eye of Wilde: Ordinary is his judgeship.
Loud rings the voice of the Associate as he calls “Jones against Jones!” Prominent is his nose, and remarkable are his spectacles. As the eye of brown Jones meets that of Emily, it quails audibly.
Spinks, of the big whiskers, is for the petitioner. Dreadful are the cruelties of which she complains. Judicial is the separation she seeks! Twistwam, son of Twistwam, is for the respondent,—his plea denial!
“Son of Twistwam!” said Spinks, of the big whiskers, “I will raise the song of bards, and the sorrows of Emily, of the fair hair, shall be my theme! “Go it, then,” said Twistwam, the son of Twistwam. Rises Spinks among the circle of the chiefs. Wilde, of the Ordinary Judgeship, dips his pen in ink, and opens his note-book. “Son of Wilde,” said Spinks, of the big whiskers, “may it please vou! I will sing unto you the sorrows of the yellow-haired Emily. Her father dwelt in the caves of Oithona, and he hunted the deer in the tree-less forests of Lochlin. O’er the hills of Morven sped he after the nimble Royal, and the valleys of Cuehullin resounded with the loud crack of his rifle. In other words, he had shootings in the West of Scotland.”
“Then why not say so at once?” observed Wilde, the Baron.
“To her father and to her came one day brown Jones. He was unmatched in the chase, and he could strike the bounding deer, even from an adjoining county. He saw Emily, of the fair hair, he loved her, and he carried her to the land of Luban, where the eastern extremity of the rain-bow dips into the mists of Tara.
“Where?” said the Judge Ordinary.
“Aberdeen,” said Spinks.
“Put in the marriage certificate,” said Wilde, the Baron “Hand it in,” said Spinks, of the big whiskers, to the usher, suppressor of applause. “Six times had the sun — I should say the moon — made its revolution about the stars — that is the earth, ere brown Jones raised the song of war. But when he did raise it, he made up for lost time. Thrashed was Emily, of the yellow hair. Dreadful were her screams. Unfit for publication were the oaths of brown Jones. Her people came over to her. “Why do tears dim the blue eyes of Emily, of the fair hair?” asked they. But brown Jones answered not; and in gloomy silence bold he held himself apart. Insufficient was the housekeeping money. Stand it no longer could Emily, of the fair hair, so she filed her petition. Let Emily be called!”
Who is this that weeps into the smallest of cambric pocket-hand-kerchiefs? It is Emily, of the fair hair!”
Sad is her tale, terrible are the enormities of which she complains! Crushed are bonnets she produces as evidence of her lord’s reproof! Loud are the shouts of indignation that arise from the crowded court. Terrible is the indignation of the usher at that impropriety.
Who is it that rises among the circle of the chiefs? It is Twistwam, son of Twistwam, of the clouded brow. But he has no mso [?]. And the jury tells him so! For the petitioner is the verdict. Judicial is the separation granted. Against the respondent are the costs reckoned! And the ghosts of long-dead cruelties shrink, for the third time, into the ears of brown Junes, as the fair haired Emily smiles through the tears of her woe.
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Last modified 9 March 2016