Lines to Love: The Lauren Willig Edition


In this year’s first post, New Year’s Reading Resolution, I talked about the first book that would be published in the new year that particularly excited me: The English Wife by Lauren Willig. Well, dear readers, that book came out on Tuesday and I have been snatching every moment I can to read it. Of course, it has not disappointed. In fact, on Monday I have a very special announcement to make regarding said book, so, keep your eyes peeled. 

Lines to Love has been a long standing tradition here at Whiskers on Kittens. I simply enjoy the English language too much not to highlight those lines I’ve come across in my readings that touch me. Ordinarily, they are from books I’ve throughly enjoyed and included in Lines to Love for their pithy, witty, poignant, or powerful impact. 

Today, I want to narrow the purview to a more specific topic. Literary allusion. Literary allusion is something we see with regularity. However, to further straiten the field of focus, I particularly love literary allusion that alludes to literary devices. How’s that for specific?

I have come across several examples of this, but the one who utilizes it with aplomb is the incomparable Lauren Willig. If you have yet to read any of her books, you’re in for a treat. She is best known for her delightful 12 volume Pink Carnation series that plays to the same beat of the hearts of Scarlet Pimpernel lovers everywhere (and Blackadder fans, too). If you don’t know who the Scarlet Pimpernel is, then stop reading this post and immediately hasten to your nearest library to secure your copy. You shall not be disappointed. 
But, back to literary devices and the allusions thereof. One of the things I appreciate about Lauren Willig is the humor she possesses in her actual writing. Whether your into the story or not (a thing which has never happened to me), you can sit back and appreciate how she plays with her words. I sited several of these instances in my first Lines to Love post, but it bares repeating: 

In the end they went with the cloaks, which also had the benefit of being both there and theirs.
— The Lure of the Moonflower

There and theirs! Ha! Splendid. Puts a smile on my face instantly. See how she’s engaging the reader, catering to his/her intellect, trotting out whimsy better than Lord Peter himself.

As I’ve so been enjoying her latest publication, I thought it a great idea to go through my notebooks and find the Willig lines that enchant me. In doing so, I found that she does this sort of thing with regularity. Unfortunately, I cannot find my older notebooks where I have recorded lines from her earlier books, but I do have several lines I’d like to share with you from the last few books in The Pink Carnation series, with one or two appearing from her stand-alone, The Other Daughter

Here’s the perfect one to start off with. Sets the tone superbly:

English could be a bloody infuriating language at times, with its denotations and connotations and multiple meanings running rampant around perfectly innocent words.
— The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

Of course, when talking of anything literary- allusions or otherwise, Augustus Whittlesby must be referenced. Almost anything he says, in fact. Honestly, from the moment he used the word sesquipedality in The Masque of the Black Tulip, my heart was irrevocably gone (props to those of you who catch that literary allusion...). The fact that he did it with such flare and drama and billowing sleeves made him all the more lovable. 

‘The man has no feeling for the rhythm of the language, for the tripping trot of enjambed feet as they prance down that pulchritudinous path of poesy over which only the muse may rule as mistress.’ The speech was made all the more impressive by the fact that the poet managed to utter it without once pausing for breath.
— The Orchid Affair

Then there is the battle-axe Miss Gwen spouting all her literary knowledge with parasol precision.

‘Alliteration is the cheapest form of literary device.’
— The Lure of the Moonflower

And here are a few literary allusions that allude to things other than the grammatical or the lexical respectively. In truth, they're just allusions in the classical sense.

Let’s start with Helen of Troy, the woman whose face, purportedly, launched a thousand ships. In fact, if the poets are to be believed- and before them, the oral traditions- she’s a woman who caused rather a lot of trouble in her time. 

She knew what the poets said of love; she knew what great men and women had sacrificed in the name of that elusive emotion. Towers had toppled; fleets had been launched. But Jane had always wondered if they had all felt a bit sheepish about it afterwards, if what they had lauded as love was merely, in fact, the grip of a strong infatuation, lust fueled by inaccessibility. The prize when won, lost its luster. The famous beauty had a shrill voice; the great lover stinted his servants. Love was a chimera; an ideal.
— The Lure of the Moonflower

It’s an old adage that a truly educated person is someone who is familiar with both Shakespeare and the Bible. Tell me, dear readers, from which does this next allusion come?

She was full of wormwood and gall.
— The Other Daughter

If you were uncertain, I’ll give you another hint. This next allusion also comes from the same source. 

Otherwise they might have been the first woman and the first man, before fruit and deceit had conspired to alert them to their own nakedness.
— The Lure of the Moonflower

And, just to end on a high note, let’s throw in a literary allusion to hell. Or, perhaps two...

Both Mr. Montfort and Cousin David could go directly to a hot place populated with pitchforks.
— The Other Daughter

I know I cited this one in the Lines to Love devoted to the Scarlet Pimpernel, but I simply adore it too much not to include it here again. 

As Colin had informed her a while back, the house had been extensively redone in the late nineteenth century by an ancestor infatuated with the Arts and Crafts movement, which explained the heavy William Morris draperies over the windows and the Pre-Raphaelite murals on the walls— although I did wonder whether Persephone eating the pomegranate was really an appropriate scene for a dining room. What sort of message did that send? Sample the fruit plate and go straight to hell?
— The Garden Intrigue

Now, dear readers, it’s your turn. What are some of you favorite allusions. Have you ever come across one that just excites you to your tippy tip-toes? Please share so we can all bask in the thrill of it. 

P.S. Keep your eyes open for an fun announcement coming Monday.