Question on Victorian fiction verisimilitude

Phyrebrat

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Hello, Just a quick one.

I've been writing the accompanying book to A Sour Ground, most of which is set between 1854-1876, and have been researching Victorian lifestyle, and what not.

I found the complete works of Dickens for 99p and bought them for my Kindle, and I've been enjoying Hard Times which deals with similar subjects as the ones I am. One thing I've really liked is the use of parenthetical asides. Characters often make asides in my writing, but I've used dashes.

Dickens, speaking as an obtrusive narrator does this (uses brackets) well, and it's funny and enjoyable. But he writes in Omni whereas I'm using third.

However, I want to use brackets as a signifier of the era and literary styles as it underlines this character's (Crawford Bartley's) somewhat effete/romantic approach to life when the Industrial Revo was in full swing. He's more a beau than an ineffectual man, though, and is well-read and artistically literate. Therefore his internal thoughts are sometimes delivered in an omni manner - but this is how he processes things. The other character is a larger-than-life retired Naval captain - think Leo McKern in Rumpole, but with a dash of Flashheart, and there's a bit of teasing and attempt to befuddle going on.

I have this, and want to know how I should punctuate it so I can keep the parentheses. Any ideas?

Thanks

Before Crawford could answer, Uncle Ned had jumped down and opened the right door with a speed suggesting alchemy.

‘No, I mean yes, but it’s a strange subject to sing of,’ he said.

‘A life at sea will stain a man with habits hard to clean. I sing only from force of habit when returning to port,’ he said, helping Crawford down as if he were a fragile lady, then pointed to the house. ‘This is my port now, and lest the dead should feel welcome on my ship—’ (at this he patted his brougham - for it was decidedly ‘his’ brougham and thus his ship) ‘—I sing to remind them they are indeed dripping, silent, and dead.’


pH
 
I would think by removing the EM dashes (second or both...maybe) : ‘This is my port now, and lest the dead should feel welcome on my ship—’ (at this he patted his brougham - for it was decidedly ‘his’ brougham and thus his ship) ‘I sing to remind them they are indeed dripping, silent, and dead.’

It's my understanding that EM-dashes are a replacement for parentheses. The second EM-dash you have at the start of the second dialogue section I believe is incorrect. If you insisted upon keeping the parentheses and EM-dashes, then keep the first EM-dash where it is (a hard pause to his speech), and remove the second...although the parentheses makes even the first EM-d moot. So, I'd do what's below:

Eliminating the parentheses 'I' like MUCH better (and moving the EM-dashes) : ‘This is my port now, and lest the dead should feel welcome on my ship’—at this he patted his brougham - for it was decidedly ‘his’ brougham and thus his ship—‘I sing to remind them they are indeed dripping, silent, and dead.’

However, I've suddenly gone brain dead as to whether a comma would be needed at the end of that first section of dialogue (I believe not, but can't recall).

Anywho, how I'd change it by removing at this and adding a comma after the second brougham: ‘This is my port now, and lest the dead should feel welcome on my ship’—he patted his brougham - for it was decidedly ‘his’ brougham, and thus his ship—‘I sing to remind them they are indeed dripping, silent, and dead.’

K2
 
Last edited:
Thanks. K2.

I like it but the ‘he’ who is patting the brougham is not the pov character but the Uncle. So it’s Uncle Ned speaking about the superstition but Crawford (in PoV) making the observation that the carriage is his uncle’s and his ‘ship’.

Also I want to use brackets. (I’m happy to lose either/both the m-dashes if it makes the sentence correct, though).

pH
 
I like it but the ‘he’ who is patting the brougham is not the pov character but the Uncle. So it’s Uncle Ned speaking about the superstition but Crawford (in PoV) making the observation that the carriage is his uncle’s and his ‘ship’.

Also I want to use brackets. (I’m happy to lose either/both the m-dashes if it makes the sentence correct, though).

Understood, then I believe removing the EM-dashes is the way since parentheses and EM-dashes are redundant (I still can't recall a comma at the end of the first line, but believe not).

K2
 
‘A life at sea will stain a man with habits hard to clean. I sing only from force of habit when returning to port,’ he said, helping Crawford down as if he were a fragile lady, then pointed to the house. ‘This is my port now, and lest the dead should feel welcome on my ship—’ (at this he patted his brougham - for it was decidedly ‘his’ brougham and thus his ship) ‘—I sing to remind them they are indeed dripping, silent, and dead.’

This seems fine to me. It doesn't seem out of period: God knows the Victorians used some odd punctuation at times.
 
Yep, I'd leave it like that, em-dashes and all. I'd remove this dash at "brougham - his" though, and make that a comma.

By the way, I found having two consecutive paragraphs both with "he said" confusing. Having re-read it, I think the first one is Crawford speaking, and in context it might be clearer, but I'd suggest using names in case not. (And you'll have to avoid "Ned said" all the way through, so might be an idea to give him another name! :p)
 
Therefore his internal thoughts are sometimes delivered in an omni manner
I haven't really any comments on the punctuation style you wish to adopt (other than the very obvious one that it should be consistent), but what you're talking about in the bit I've quoted seems to be free indirect speech, which was used by authors from before the time period you mention (e.g. Jane Austen, 1775-1817) and just after (e.g. Henry James, 1842-1916), and it continues in use to this day.

If you want to put your examples of it in brackets, as Dickens does in his Third Omni narration, I would have thought that was completely okay -- though in the last paragraph, I would contend that "at this he patted his brougham" is straight narration: it's an action, not a thought, so the parentheses perhaps ought** to be only around the remainder of the interruption -- but the authors I mentioned would probably have written it thus (because free indirect speech is still narration, just very, very close third person):
‘This is my port now, and lest the dead should feel welcome on my ship—’ at this he patted his brougham - for it was decidedly ‘his’ brougham and thus his ship ‘—I sing to remind them they are indeed dripping, silent, and dead.’
I've kept the em-dashes inside the quotation marks as the speech itself is interrupted (as confirmed by the text of the interruption).


** - Giving:
‘This is my port now, and lest the dead should feel welcome on my ship—’ at this he patted his brougham (for it was decidedly ‘his’ brougham and thus his ship) ‘—I sing to remind them they are indeed dripping, silent, and dead.’
 

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