The Unrest Cure Analysis Essay

This New York Review Booksedition of The Un-rest Cure and Other Storiesby Saki is a compilation from several different collections. There’s a total of 26 stories here:

From Reginald:

Reginald at the Carlton

Reginald on Besetting Sins

Reginald’s Drama 

From Reginald in Russia:

The Reticence of Lady Anne

The Strategist

From The Chronicles of Clovis

Tobermory

Mrs. Packlehide’s Tiger

The Stampeding of Lady Bastable

The Unrest-Cure

Sredni Vashtar

Adrian

The Quest

The Peace Offering

The Talking-out of Tarrington

The Hounds of Fate

From Beasts and Superbeasts:

The Boar-Pig

The Open Window

The Cobweb

Fur

From the Toys of Peace:

The Guests

The Penance

Bertie’s Christmas Eve

Quail Seed

Mark

Fate

The Seven Cream Jugs

Saki, whose real name was H. H. Munro (1870-1916), was a British satirist best remembered for his many short stories which skewered and satirized Edwardian society. New York Review Books took a chance with this volume as these collections are free for the kindle, but in this volume, the wit of Saki is paired with the art of Edward Gorey, and it’s an excellent match.

You can’t read these droll stories and imagine for a moment that you are reading anything but a British novelist, and the amusing Reginald stories, full of one-liners, reminded me of PG. Wodehouse more than anyone else. Reginald’s wit is often at the expense of his listening audience–people who just don’t ‘get it.’ In Reginald at the Carleton, the duchess and Reginald converse and touch on the subject of Lady Beauwhistle’s aunt, a woman the duchess claims is “sweet.”

“And so silly. In these days of the overeducation of women, she’s quite refreshing. They say some people went through the siege of Paris without knowing that France and Germany were at war, but the Beauwhistle aunt is credited with having passed the whole winter in Paris under the impression that the Humberts were a kind of bicycle….”

But for this reader, the best stories in the collection are The Chronicles of Clovis. These hilarious, subversive tales, rife with mischief & savage wit, are superb. I simply loved Clovis, a young man who undermines the decorum of Edwardian society at every opportunity, and behind that comment comes the thought that I would love to be Clovis, stirring up mayhem every chance I got.

In the title story, The Unrest-Cure, Clovis is traveling when he overhears a conversation between two men on a train. One of the men named Huddle, complains to his friend that although he’s only a little over 40, he’s become “settled down in the deep groove of elderly middle-age.” For Huddle and his sister, everything in life must remain the same; they loathe change of any sort, even if it’s a “trifling matter.” The latest disturbance in routine involves a thrush who has built its nest in a new location. To Huddle, the change is “unnecessary andirritating.” Huddle’s friend suggests an “unrest-cure.

“You’ve heard of Rest-cures for people who’ve broken down under stress of too much worry and strenuous living; well, you’re suffering from overmuch repose and placidity, and you need the opposite kind of treatment.”

“But where would one go for such a thing?”

“Well, you might stand as an orange candidate for Kilkenny, or do a course of district visiting in one of the *apache headquarters of Paris, or give lectures in Berlin to prove that most of Wagner’s music was written by Gambetta; and there’s always the interior of Morocco to travel in. But, to be really effective, the unrest-cure ought to be tried in the home. How you  would do it, I haven’t the faintest idea.”

Clovis, while he appears to have a languid nature, is never short of ideas and energy when it comes to creating mischief and social sabotage, so he decides to impersonate a bishop’s secretary and visit Huddle who is subsequently provided with the dastardly “unrest-cure.” The outcome is maliciously hilarious, but underneath all the humour, Saki seems to be making a statement about the passivity of the average person when confronted with “authority” and a particularly nasty agenda.

In “The Stampeding of Lady Bastable,” Mrs Sangrail tries to pawn off her son Clovis on Lady Bastable for a few days while she goes to Scotland:

It was her invariable plan to speak in a sleepy, comfortable voice whenever she was unusually keen about anything; it put people off their guard, and they frequently fell in with her wishes before they had realized that she was really asking for anything. Lady Bastable, however, was not so easily taken unawares; possibly she knew that voice and what it betokened-at any rate she knew Clovis.

Lady Bastable still has memories of Clovis’s last stay and isn’t too keen to take responsibility for him again. Mrs. Sangrail’s assurances that Clovis has matured don’t impress Lady Bastable who argues that “it’s no use growing older if you only learn new ways of misbehaving yourself.” But in spite of Lady Bastable’s wariness of Clovis’s “irrepressiblewaywardness,” she agrees to babysit Clovis in exchange for the cancellation of a gambling debt. Clovis, however, has his own reasons for wanting to go to Scotland, and so he forms a diabolical plan…

There were moments when Clovis could easily have been a character in an Oscar Wilde play. His glib, confident, impromptu fabrications reminded this reader of The Importance ofBeing Earnest. Full of caustic, yet eccentric wit, these short stories are best savoured slowly, one at a time.

Review copy.

* Apache gangs, known for their savagery, operated in Paris from the late 1800s but disappeared during WWI

SONNET 147PARAPHRASE


Notes

sickly (4) ] Love as a sickness is the primary motif of the sonnet. Notice Shakespeare's word choices: fever (1), disease (2), ill (3), physician (5), prescription (6), physic (8), death (8), and cure (9). Also note the more subtle word play with physician and physic. The focus on illness might be connected to venereal disease. Note Sonnet 144, "Till my bad angel fire my good one out" (14). Many critics believe this is a direct reference to a sexually transmitted disease.

the physician to my love (5) ] The poet's reason acts as his doctor, advising him on the proper course of action. In the next line we see that death is not a remedy which the physician will allow the poet.

approve (7) ] Find by experience.

black (14) ] A play on the dark complexion of the poet's mistress.



Shakespeare's scathing attack upon the morality of his mistress exemplifies their tumultuous and perplexing relationship. The three quatrains outline the poet's inner struggle to cope with both his lover's infidelity and the embarrassing self-admission that he still desires her to gratify him sexually, even though she has been with other men. The poet yearns to understand why, in spite of the judgment of reason (5), he still is enslaved by her charms. Confused by his own inexplicable urges, the poet's whole being is at odds with his insatiable "sickly appetite" (4) for the dark lady. He deduces in the final quatrain that he surely must be insane, for he calls his mistress just and moral when she obviously is neither. Not until later sonnets (150-1) do we see a change of tone and a cool-headed acknowledgment of the recklessness of the whole affair.

In Sonnet 151, the poet admits that he cannot continue the relationship because it betrays his "nobler part" (6) i.e. his soul, and in Sonnet 152 we are witness to the end of the affair. Is Sonnet 147 autobiographical? Did Shakespeare really have an affair with a raven-haired seducer? Critics are divided on this matter, and, until some new documents are uncovered, we shall never know the truth. Attempts have been made to solicit possible historical candidates for the role of the dark lady, based on their likely association with Shakespeare. The most famous contenders are Mary Fitton, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth; Lucy Morgan, a brothel owner; and Emilia Lanier, the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, patron of the arts. I'll leave you with a skeptic's view of the autobiographical nature of the sonnets:
Every sonneteer of the 16th century, at some point in his career, devoted his energies to vituperation of a cruel siren....In Shakespeare's early life the convention was wittily parodied by Gabriel Harvey in "An Amorous Odious sonnet entitled The Student's Loove or Hatrid, or both or neither, or what shall please the looving or hating reader, either in sport or in earnest, to make of such contrary passions as are here discoursed". The Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets may therefore be relegated to the ranks of the creatures of his fancy. It is quite possible that he may have met in real life a dark-complexioned siren, and it is possible that he may have fared ill at her disdainful hands. But it was the exacting conventions of the sonneteering contagion, and not his personal experiences or emotions, that impelled Shakespeare to give the dark lady of his sonnets a poetic being" (Sidney Lee, quoted in the Alden edition, p. 359).



How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 147. Ed. Amanda Mabillard. Shakespeare Online. 8 Dec. 2008. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/147detail.html >.

References
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. A. L. Rowse. London: Macmillan & Co., 1964.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. Raymond Macdonald Alden. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.
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Did You Know? ... "Of the countless editions of the works of Shakespeare that show a frontispiece likeness of the poet, it is a singular fact that by far the greater number favour the 'Chandos' portrait. The face and features of Shakespeare as 'imaged' in that portrait are those with which his readers are probably most familiar. It is not easy to account for this, since the Chandos Portrait is certainly not the first in point of genuineness, whatever may be its degree of artistic merit. Possibly it satisfies more fully the popular ideal of the likeness of a great creative poet than does the bust or print just referred to. Be that as it may, the 'Chandos ' portrait, for various reasons, more than justifies its being kept in the custody of the nation as a very rare and valuable relic of its greatest dramatist." Alexander Cargill. Read on....

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