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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Chapters 23 – 26

November 7, 2014

strangeChapter 23: The Shadow House

Mr Segundus is back!
We finally have mention of a woman magician. Well… sort of? Apparently Maria let the house go to ruin to increase its magic, but the narrator does not tell us of Maria actually doing any magic.
Miss Abaslom sounds like she looks quite a bit like Queen Elizabeth. I don’t remember many portraits of English ladies with red hair except Elizabeth. Red hair was not, as far as I can tell, very fashionable.
Why would Norrell need four copies of The Language of Birds except that he wishes to keep anyone else from having it?
Mr Strange comes across at first as very cross, but settles back down into something much more amiable. I do wonder, however, what happened to Miss Woodhope. He does not seem to be married to her, despite it being some time now since his father’s death.
I do not think Mr Norrell will be at all pleased to have Mr Strange come on the scene.

Chapter 24: Another magician 

It seems very typical that Lascelles wouldn’t know a man by his name, but would remember a prank he pulled at school.
Oh, apparently Strange is married.
It’s funny that Norrell wants to read Strange’s writing when he himself never produces anything.
Strange is shaking things up from the very first; attacking an article expressly approved by Norrell, casually mentioning the great lack of books when everyone knows that Norrell is hoarding them all.
I think Mr Norrell hates the Raven King, not because he stole half of England, but because his name will always be greater than Mr Norrell’s own.
Giving someone a book and then telling them what they are supposed to learn from it… how thoughtful.
Oh, well done, Mr Strange. You did a piece of magic, got rid of an unwanted gift, and complete won over Mr Norrell. Although, I don’t think the apprenticeship will be a peaceful one.

Chapter 25: The education of a magician

“…best of all, one need not so much as look upon another of one’s fellow creatures from one month’s end to the next if one does not wish it!” -Norrell really isn’t a people person, is he?
What has caused all the gaps in Norrell’s library? Is it something like the books that Segundus and Honeyfoot couldn’t remember? Or is it a bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes? Everyone knows Norrell has a great library, so the gaps are ignored?
“What have I ever done that has needed the help of a fairy?” – is he ignoring or forgetting the thistledown-haired man?
I think we have all encountered a situation similar to that of Strange and Norrell; a friendship where one party is much more invested and happy than the other. Those usually don’t end well.
I’m not sure that this is the world’s longest footnote, but at 5 pages, I think it’s a contender.
The story of the Master of Notthingham’s ring is very fine, but the tiny addendum at the end is the most notable. The story without the ring and without the rivalry tells instead of two woman, Margaret Ford and Donata Torel, who form a fellowship of women magicians. The Master of Nottingham hates it and tries to destroy it, leading the women to flee into the woods and the protection of a greater magician. But, of course, that’s not the popular version.
The gaps in the library explained! Norrell is still hoarding knowledge, even from his hand-picked pupil.
The nightmare scheme is interesting, but Norrell’s nightmares are very sad and small. I’m surprised it was Dragoons in the wardrobe rather than mice. Although, an illusion of mice in the walls as you’re trying to sleep might be efficacious.
I love the idea of having novelists write nightmares!
Sending dreams to Alexander of Russia seems quite clever. Napoleon was not one to turn aside out of fear of dreams, but his allies were never as driven as he. Alexander flip-flopped back and forth repeatedly during the wars as it was.

Chapter 26: Orb, crown and sceptre

The monotony of the music and the decayed state of the house remind me of various other fairy stories in which the fair folk look to humans for inventiveness and creative thinking. Or stories in which all the fairy glamour turns to leaves and ashes in the morning. It seems like the Thistledown man’s house is caught halfway between.
“He always took great care not to speak to, or in any way acknowledge, negroes of low station. He feared that if he were seen speaking to such people it might be supposed that he had some connexion with them.” – and the first thing I have found out about Stephen Black that makes me sad.
Is Johnson in his black ship hat an omen? Black ships are not, typically, considered lucky. The hat reminds me of one from Plunkett & Macleane;  hat with a skeleton on a gibbet on top.
Jonathan Strange is perhaps not quite so stupid as Mr Norrell when it comes to perceiving the fair world. He can hear them talking about him after all.
And, lest we forget that the man with the thistle-down hair is amoral and scary, we have the mention of throwing children off the belfry.

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