Chapter 3--Cakes and Ale
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The Narrator first "meets" Driffield on the street. Driffield is accompanied by the Narrator's uncle's currate who does not introduce the two. The Narrator, snobbish as everyone else in Blackstable, doesn't want to meet Driffield anyway because Driffield is wearing nickerbockers, apparel not at all conducive to polite and cultured society.
Later that day tea time conversation centers on gossip about Driffield. He is from a low class (son on a baliff employed at Ferne Court, home of a local gentry), threw away a good education to "go to sea", married a Blackstable girl who works as a barmaid at a local pub (most inappropriate), and wrote a first novel, considered "trashy" by the Narrator's uncle. Ironic, thinks the present-day Narrator that now, after Driffield has attained great fame as an author, that the people of Blackstable furiously demanded his final resting place be the Church at Blackstable and not Westminster Abbey. (The Dean of the Abbey refused burial there anyway!)
The scene is set for both the Narrator (and readers) to seek out the notorious Driffields, husband and wife.
Thanks for the side note. I appreciate your 'take' on whether Driffield was Hardy or not. When I first read C&A I wondered as well but this time, strangely enough, I find myself just relaxing into the story and enjoying Maughams very, very witty satire. Not to diminish your interest in who is who in this novel. But somehow, the narrative swing just seems to have taken over and I read "Driffield" as "Driffield". I suspect that being a member of this group and reading about Maugham, his way of creating, his easy style---C&A is turning out to be a totally new novel to me.
If you know of a writer called Vikram Seth who has apparently written the longest novel- A suitable boy- I find some similarities. The cities Seth describes in A suitable boy are an amalgamation of facets of a lot of Indian cities- and finally- it is difficult to understand which of those cities it is- but it looks deceptively similar to any of the cities from one angle.
I don't know which chapter this came from- but this bit about how the young got fooled into the trick of old age as being the 'wise age' is something I will never forget from Cakes and Ale.
A man who is a politician at forty is a statesman at three score and ten. It is at this age, when he would be too old to be a clerk or a gardener or a police-court magistrate, that he is ripe to govern a country. This is not so strange when you reflect that from the earliest times the old have rubbed ft in to the young that they are wiser than they, and before the young had discovered what nonsense this was they were old too, and it profited them to carry on the imposture; and besides, no one can have moved in the society of politicians without discovering that (if one may judge by results) it requires little mental ability to rule a nation.
This easily turns into a hilarious explanation of the reverence for old age that writers, specifically, enjoy:
After mature consideration I have come to the conclusion that real reason for the universal applause that comforts the declining years of the author who exceeds the common span of men is that intelligent people after the age of thirty read nothing at all. As they grow older the books they read in their youth are lit with its glamour and with every year that passes they ascribe greater merit to the author that wrote them. Of course he must go on; he must keep in the public eye. It is no good his thinking that it is enough to write one or two masterpieces; he must provide a pedestal for them of forty or fifty works of no particular consequence. This needs time. His production must be such that if he cannot captivate a reader by his charm he can stun him by his weight.