Mr. Fortune (New York Review Books Classics)
Sylvia Townsend Warner
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After a decade in one South Seas mission, a London bank-clerk-turned-minister sets his heart on serving a remote volcanic island. Fanua contains neither cannibals nor Christians, but its citizens, his superior warns, are like children—immoral children. Still, Mr. Timothy Fortune lights out for Fanua. Yet after three years, he has made only one convert, and his devotion to the boy may prove more sensual than sacred. Mr. Fortune’s Maggot, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s follow-up to Lolly Willowes, is lyrical, droll, and deeply affecting, and her missionary captivated his creator as much as he did her readers.
Long after the work’s publication, Warner began the novella The Salutation. Now adrift and starving on the Brazilian pampas, Mr. Fortune is rescued by an elderly widow, who delights in having an Englishman about the house. Her heir, however, may beg to differ.
Brilliant and subversive, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot and its sequel are now available in one volume. They show Sylvia Townsend Warner at the height of her powers.
N.E., so encumbered and subfusc; and the horrible disappointment of St. Fabien. There had passed the worst days of his life; for he had expected something of them, he had gone there with an intention of happiness and doing good. But though he had tried his best he had not been able to love the converts, they were degenerate, sickly, and servile; and in his discouragement he had thought to himself: “It’s a good thing I know about book-keeping, for I shall never be fit to do anything better.” And
to train his voice to Christian behaviour. In this he was more successful; Lueli’s voice was of a nondescript newly broken timbre. He couldn’t always control it, and Mr. Fortune had to smoke his pipe very hard in order not to laugh at the conjunction of Lueli’s expression, so determined in well-doing, and the vagaries of his voice wandering from the straight path and ricochetting from note to note. He also taught him to whistle, or tried to, for he was rather shocked at the idea of a boy not
thread was there from the beginning or woven in later, Garnett was the first of many readers to respond strongly to it: “David took the proofs to read and shut himself up with them,” Warner wrote in her letter to William Maxwell. “When he came out, having read the book, he began to tell me that he thought it was good. His face swelled and reddened and we both realized that he was in tears.” Garnett corroborated this account of his reaction in a review for the Daily News: “...suddenly, our eyes
the Archdeacon, for like a child arriving late at a party he felt perfectly bewildered and would have remained in the same spot, smiling and staring. But like the child at a party he found himself taken charge of and shepherded in the right direction until, in the house of the chief islander, he was seated on a low stool with his hat taken off, a garland round his neck, and food in his hands, smiling and staring still. Before dark the luggage was also landed. The evening was spent in
waves. In his mind’s eye he saw, dimly distinct on the night, the pattern of broken lace incessantly jolted backward from her sides, the trailing and forsaken wake. It was his impatience that ravaged the face of ocean with these fleeting shows, that startled from every sleek mound of water this response of astonished foam. Silenced under the blackness of night was the colour he had noticed so often and never seen till now, when his memory gave it to him: the blue, so intense, so candid as to be