Sunday Levity: Geopolitical strategy in popular literature (3)

The magician’s assistant edition

John Childermass is Mr Norrell’s servant. Mr Norrell—who wants English magic to be monopolised (by himself)—and Jonathan Strange—his former pupil, who has other ideas—are rivals. Childermass and Strange have this conversation on page 699.

There was a little pause and then Strange said, “Is it not time, Childermass, that you left Mr Norrell’s service and came to me? There need be none of this servant nonsense. You would simply be my pupil and assistant.”

Childermass laughed. “Ha, ha! Thank you, sir. Thank you! But Mr Norrell and I are not done with each other. Not yet. And, besides, I think I would be a very bad pupil — worse even than you.”

Strange, smiling, considered a moment. “That is a good answer, ” he said at last, “but not quite good enough, I am afraid. I do not believe that you can truly support Norrell’s side. One magician in England! One opinion upon magic! Surely you do not agree with that? There is at least as much contrariness in your character as in mine. Why not come and be contrary with me?”

“But then I would be obliged to agree with you, sir, would I not? I do not know how it will end with you and Norrell. I have asked my cards to tell me, but the answer seems to blow this way and that. What lies ahead is too complex for the cards to explain clearly and I cannot find the right question to ask them. I tell you what I will do. I will make you a promise. If you fail and Mr Norrell wins, then I will leave his service. I will take up your cause, oppose him with all my might and find arguments to vex him — and then there shall still be two magicians in England and two opinions upon magic. But, if he should fail and you win, I will do the same for you. Is that good enough?”

Strange smiled. “Yes, that is good enough.” [Susanna Clarke/Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell]

Related Posts: The lecherous old man from Catch-22 edition; the Falstaff “scissors, paper & stone” edition; Voldemort, the Realist edition