Mr. Fortune (New York Review Books Classics)
Sylvia Townsend Warner
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After a decade in one South Seas mission, a London bank-clerk-turned-minister sets his heart on serving a remote volcanic island. Fanua contains neither cannibals nor Christians, but its citizens, his superior warns, are like children—immoral children. Still, Mr. Timothy Fortune lights out for Fanua. Yet after three years, he has made only one convert, and his devotion to the boy may prove more sensual than sacred. Mr. Fortune’s Maggot, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s follow-up to Lolly Willowes, is lyrical, droll, and deeply affecting, and her missionary captivated his creator as much as he did her readers.
Long after the work’s publication, Warner began the novella The Salutation. Now adrift and starving on the Brazilian pampas, Mr. Fortune is rescued by an elderly widow, who delights in having an Englishman about the house. Her heir, however, may beg to differ.
Brilliant and subversive, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot and its sequel are now available in one volume. They show Sylvia Townsend Warner at the height of her powers.
drinking his tea (Lueli drank tea also, because his affection and pride made him in everything a copy-cat, but he sipped it with a dubious and wary expression), Mr. Fortune found himself thinking of England. He thought about his father, a sanguine man who suddenly upped and shot himself through the head; and thence his thoughts jumped to a Whitsuntide bank holiday which he had spent in a field near Ruislip. The sky was a pale milky blue, the field was edged with some dowdy elms and beyond them
your telling me you loved diving...I have also made some enquiries about algebra, but the earthquake and the harmonium...have settled in nicely” (letter to David Garnett, March 6, 1926). In a letter to William Maxwell written in the mid-1960s, Warner traced the beginnings of the story to “an extremely vivid dream. A man stood alone on an ocean beach, wringing his hands in an intensity of despair; as I saw him in my dream I knew something about him...” Even late in the writing of the book (which
“Lueli, you know how sorry I am to be leaving you. I will not speak of it much, I don’t think we need upset each other by telling our feelings. We know them already. But I have one consolation. I am not leaving a weakling, some one that I should have to feel uneasy about. When I think of you, as I shall do constantly, it will be with admiration and confidence.” He looked down at the face raised towards his. Affection, grief, the most entire attention were depicted thereon; but for all these
isn’t it won’t hurt them to wait. They’ll have the bananas to amuse them.” Together they put all straight and tidy, folded up Mr. Fortune’s island clothes, threw away the garlands of overnight and the unused twigs and vines that had been plucked for the packing of the head-dress, and removed every trace of departure. Then they set forth for the village once more. Every one was out to see Mr. Fortune off and wish him good luck. The launch was outside the reef and his luggage was being conveyed
the arbour smoking cigars. He was silent, unless Quita came into the garden for vegetables. Then, as abruptly as if he had been turned on, he would break into a torrent of injurious recriminations, smartly taken up by her. For a few minutes the two voices, gusty bass and strident alto, would clash together; then, when she had snatched the prey from his hands and rushed back into the house, he would turn himself off again. It seemed as though a stranger in the garden was less than a pebble to him.