Friday, May 28, 2010

Beatrice Bowed

The title is a declarative sentence, not a participle clause. The verb is the past tense of ‘to bow /bau/’, and not a passive participle. A number of questions arise, and will persist even when I add more context.

Why would someone called Beatrice bow?* (She is indeed a woman, and a very feminine one, not some 20-stone wrestler whose mother had a sense of humour). Furthermore, why would the daughter of an Earl (for such she is) bow on being introduced to a Viscount (the Viconte de Blissac, to be precise)?

If this were a Dan Brown novel or the script for a Hollywood film it would be simply explained- the writer doesn’t have a clue about these things and doesn’t care as long as the focus group liked the scene. But no, this is a novel the master himself, P.G. Wodehouse (Hot Water, 1932), and surely he does not make mistakes about these things.

Why, then did Beatrice bow?

*I did know a young lad called Raul who would curtsey exquisitely when the occasion demanded, but he was rather confused.

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