“what a tomorrow for the future is any term that can be comprehended in cipher or counters?”

As I wind down a day, I am listening to a reading of Patrick O’Brian’s Clarissa Oakes, known in the USA as The Truelove.

Martin, an Anglican minister but sailing in HMS Surprise as surgeon’s assistant, not being a great preacher, is reading a sermon on a Sunday when the ship is rigged for church. Stephen, a papist, who has said the Rosary elsewhere, overhears him:

[...] he heard Martin’s voice: ‘Let no man say, I could not miss a fortune, for I have studied all my youth. How many men have studied more nights than he hath done hours, and studied themselves blind and mad in the mathematics, and yet wither in beggary in a corner? Let him never add, But I studied in a useful and gainful profession. How many have done so too, and yet never compassed the favour of a judge? And how many that have had all that, have struck upon a rock, even at full sea, and perished there?’ And then some time later: ‘What a dim vespers of a glorious festival, what a poor half-holiday, is Methusalem’s nine hundred years to eternity! What a poor account hath that man that says, This land hath been in my name, and in my ancestors’ from the conquest! What a yesterday is that? Not six hundred years. If I could believe the transmigration of souls and think that my soul had been successively in some creature or other since the Creation, what a yesterday is that? Not six thousand years. What a yesterday for the past, what a tomorrow for the future is any term that can be comprehended in cipher or counters?’

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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5 Responses to “what a tomorrow for the future is any term that can be comprehended in cipher or counters?”

  1. Supertradmum says:

    “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

    Well, that is one sin not against me out of the other many…..

  2. RichardT says:

    It would be interesting to hear others’ opinions, but personally I thought that book was by far the poorest (so far) of the otherwise excellent series.

    O’Brian just doesn’t seem as good at female characters as he is at male ones (Sophie is improving, but we still wouldn’t want her in the whole book, and Diana we see mainly through Maturin’s eyes rather than directly). So when there is a book with a woman as the central character, it just doesn’t seem as good as the others.

    And Mrs Oakes’ particular point of moral blindness is a feeble device that seems mainly to pander to male weakness.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Love the prose…and O’Brien in not the only male to create dubiously real female characters or even real male characters. And, some women novelists (the “lady novelist”) can’t find the real female or a real male. I have been re-reading George Eliot, and she fails miserably with Ladislaw in Middlemarch. Likewise, Henry James is hopeless with Goodwood in Portrait of a Lady (does anyone like him?) Even Austen, the Great, has some pansy men in her books-Edward in Sense and Sensibility and Edmund in Mansfield Park. Unless one is reading Charles Dickens, one must engage in a little “willing suspension of disbelief”. Actually, some of my favorite women were created by men: Adela and Mrs Moore in Passage to India are wonderful characters, as are Margaret and Helen in Howard’s End. So, I stick up for O’Brien’s females for the sake of the story.

  4. Martial Artist says:

    I thought I had read all 20-1/2 of the Aubrey/Maturin novels, but I don’t recall one set primarily in Polynesia, nor which involved an Anglican cleric embarked. I must have missed that one somehow. If so, will have to give it a read.

    Keith Töpfer

  5. Supertradmum says:

    Wow, I did not realize he wrote that many novels. I have to find some more! We only had three or four at home.