“Mr. Queed, you are afflicted with a fatal malady. Your cosmos is pure ego.”

February 7, 2010 @ 8:32 pm | Filed under:

The home page of this website (the “My Website” tab above) seems to have gone temporarily bananas—instead of my usual welcome message, it’s channeling the text of the Carney’s House Party post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Anyone happen to notice when this started? I can’t remember when I last clicked on the home page. Hmm.

I have no idea what the problem is, but I’ve written my Swank web genius and I am sure she’ll fix me up in no time. UPDATE: Yup, problem solved. Thanks, Emily!

Speaking of Carney, I’ve been perusing her yet again as I work on my foreword for the reissue, and I got curious about the novel everyone in this book seems to be reading: Queed. Isobel (Carney’s rich Eastern roomie at Vassar) reads it on the train en route to Deep Valley, and Carney is proud that her father has recently read the novel as well and is able to converse about it with Isobel. And then the day they all go to Sam Hutchinson’s house for swimming and lunch, one of Sam’s relatives is reading it. His mother, I think? Well, I looked it up and I find at Gutenberg a text by Henry Sydnor Harrison, published in 1911—the year during which Carney’s House Party takes place.

So Queed is the book everyone was reading in 1911. Have any of you read it? Wikipedia doesn’t have much to say about Harrison: Tennessee native, Columbia graduate, wrote articles for the Atlantic Monthly under the pen name of Henry Second. Queed was his first novel.

I must say the frontispiece of the Gutenberg text had me at hello:


Anxious looking chap, isn’t he? The novel’s opening paragraph contains the word “behemothian.” Twice. No wonder everyone between New York and Minnesota is reading this thing. I’m going to have to read far enough to discern whether the tone is ironic or sincere. If it’s sincere, it’s unbearable. I’m betting on ironic, though, or at least wry. I mean:

“The dog was of the breed which are said to come trotting into Alpine monasteries of a winter’s night with fat American travelers in their mouths, frozen stiff. He was extremely large for his age, whatever that was. On the other hand, the girl was small for her age, which was twenty-four next month; not so much short, you understand, for she was of a reasonable height, as of a dainty slimness, a certain exquisite reticence of the flesh.”

A certain exquisite reticence of the flesh? Tennessee native or not, Harrison has a voice right out of Monty Python.

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9 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Lauren says:

    It’s been like that since you wrote that post. Love your blog 🙂

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    Yes, it seems it was a quirk of my template. The post was set to be a sticky & I didn’t know that put it on the main page, not the blog. Argh. I can’t believe it’s been that way for 3 weeks and I didn’t notice!

  3. Sara says:

    I think I’m going to have to download Queed—after I read Carney (which I never have).

    When the re-issues came out in the fall, I had the idea of going through all the literature mentioned in the B-T books and blogging about them–sort of Julie and Julia style. I think it would be fun, but I sort of got sidetracked by all the other books you recommend!

  4. Jen Lynch says:

    Being both a Lovelace fanatic and a Vassar girl I have read the queer little Queed. It is essentially the story of a man who wants to be left alone to write about what he loves but which is incomprehensible (both literally and figuratively) to those around him. It is a time capsule of turn of the century language and culture.

    Interestingly (maybe), the word “queed” is still in use today and has the “urban slang” definition of someone who is very much disliked and may be awkward in appearance.

    What a treat to see something I thought so obscure pop up again!

  5. Sue says:

    I wish that *I* had a “certain exquisite reticence of the flesh!” Sounds good.

    Sue 😉

  6. Sally Thomas says:

    We Tennessee natives are good at channeling unlikely voices . . . I can’t decide how scary that actually sounds.

  7. Constance says:

    I like the John Stilgoe quote! I took a course with him in college, and it was the kind of lecture that left one thinking deep thoughts throughout the week. I have not read any of his writings since but definitely will now that you have reminded me.

  8. Sarah N. says:

    The language sounds delightful. I love getting to explore the interesting phrases of the past. That’s what drew me so quickly into Wodehouse years ago. I’ll have to check out Queed and I can’t wait to get a copy of the reissue of Carney’s House Party because I’ve never read it.

    Sara, I was thinking of just such a literary project with the Edward Eager magic books since I’ve been reading them with my daughter.

  9. Sarah C. says:

    Well I never thought I’d find anyone who had read or even heard of “Queed” I fell in love with the book when I was in college. A few years later my friend was working for the university’s library culling the stacks and it was one of the books being chucked. He saw my name on the sign out card. I had signed it out several times but before me it hadn’t been out in thirty years. He called me up and asked if I wanted it. I still have my battered copy.