“The Magus” (Post 4/9)

Magus 04

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

“The Magus” Month – Introduction

[133] First name given for the girl Nicholas falls in love with: Lily Montgomery. First identity: amnesiac. (p.164 / r.p.168)

[134] Reference:

He was playing a kind of Talleyrand role. The gallant old fox.

(p.165 / r.p.169)


Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (1754 – 1838) was a French bishop, politician and diplomat. Those he served often distrusted Talleyrand but found him extremely useful. The name “Talleyrand” has become a byword for crafty, cynical diplomacy.

[135] Reference:

“To expect people to live reasonably is like asking them to live on paregoric.”

(p.168 / r.p.171)


Camphorated tincture of opium; a medication. The word “paregoric” comes from the Greek word paregoricon which was originally applied or oratory (to speak, talk over, soothe).

[136] Reference:

“There was beneath the archducal dignity something deeply mournful about him. Like the actor Jouvet, but without his sarcasm.”

(p.172 / r.p.175)


Louis Jouvet (1887 – 1951) was a renowned French actor, director, and theatre director. The appearance of the character Anton Ego in Ratatouille was modeled after him.

[137] References:

“Later he offered me a collation and we sat on Boulard chairs, gravely swallowing marennes and drinking a Moselle that he told me came from his own vineyard.”

(p.172 / r.p.176)



noun (1) the act of collating something (this definition I was aware of).

(2) a light, informal meal

Jean-Baptiste Boulard (? – 1789) does not have an English Wikipedia entry. The only English-language page I could find about him is here. He designed furniture for French royalty.

Marennes is a French city and a center for oyster farming. I’m assuming Conchis and Nicholas are eating Marennes oysters.

[138] Another broad, untrue, insulting assumption about homosexuals gets tossed into the mix here (all homosexuals are misogynist) (see Post 2, note [43] for Fowles’ other misstep).

Conchis is speaking, so it could be argued that this is not Fowles’s view but Conchis is presented as intelligent and all-knowing and no one calls this little aside out for stupidity.

“He was, without being a homosexual, a misogynist. All his servants were men, and he never referred to women except with {contempt and} distaste.”

(p.173 / r.p.176)

[139] Vocabulary:

“It was built by some peculating surintendant in the late seventeenth century.”

(p.173 / r.p.176)



verb – (formal) – embezzle or steal (money, especially public funds)


French: superintendent

[140] Translation:

“I shall never forget that moment. How shall I say it – that mise en paysage.”

(p.173 / r.p.177)


French: setting in landscape

I’m taking this to mean “moment in time and place.”

[141] References:

“One never knew what one would find. A room of Renaissance bronzes. A case of Breguets. A wall of magnificent Rouen and Nevers faience.”

(p.174 / r.p.177)


Breguet is a Swiss manufacturer of luxury watches, founded in Paris in 1775.

Rouen is a city on the River Seine in the north of France.

Nevers is a city in central France.


noun – glazed ceramic ware, in particular decorated tin-glazed earthenware.

[142] References:

“The Boulles and Rieseners alone were enough to furnish six smaller chateaux. I suppose only the Hertford Collection could have rivaled it in modern times.”

(p.174 / r.p.177)


Andre Charles Boulle (1642 – 1732) was a French cabinetmaker. His name is given to the fashion he perfected of inlaying brass and tortoiseshell.

Jean-Henri Riesener (1734 – 1806) was a French cabinetmaker whose work exemplified the early neoclassical “Louis XVI style.”

After searching the term Hertford Collection and getting results about a condominium complex in Singapore and Hertford College’s collection of “rare, beautiful and unusual books,” I found a site for The Wallace Collection, which describes the history of something called the Hertford House.

From the site:

The 4th Marguess of Hertford

Richard Seymour-Conway (1800 – 70), son of the 3rd Marquess, was born in London and brought up in Paris by his mother (…)

The last thirty years of his life were devoted to collecting works of art (…) Like his father, he was attracted by the arts of eighteenth-century France, but he acquired a wider range of objects and on a far larger scale. He bought pictures by Watteau, Greuze, Boucher and Fragonard; many fine pieces of Sevres porcelian; furniture by the greatest French cabinet-makers such as Gaudreaus and Riesener, as well as miniatures, gold boxes, tapestries and sculpture (…)

More than any other Founder, it is his taste that has determined the character of the Wallace Collection we see today.

I’d say we have a winner. The confusion for finding this comes from the fact that it is not commonly referred to as the Hertford Collection. It’s the Wallace Collection that is kept in the Hertford House.

[143] Reference:

“Puppets, some almost human in size, that seemed to have stepped, or whirred, out of a Hoffman story.”

(p.174 / r.p.177)


E.T.A. Hoffman (1776 – 1822) was a Prussian Romantic author of fantasy and horror. He is the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the famous ballet is based.

[144] References:

“A prima donna from whose mouth tinkled an aria from La Serva Padrona. (…) But the chief piece was Mirabelle, la Maitresse-Machine.”

(p.174 / r.p.177)


La serva padrona (The Servant Turned Mistress) is an opera by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710 – 1736). It premiered in 1733.

la Maitresse-Machine

French: The Mistress Machine

[145] Vocabulary:

“Without significance except as vignettes, as interesting discords, as pleasurable because vivid examples of the algedonic polarity of existence.”

(p.175 / r.p.178)


adjective – pertaining to both pleasure and pain.

[146] Vocabulary:

[Beyond, in the weaker original beam], Apollo stood impassively, surveying, a pale marmoreal shadow.

(p.180 / r.p.183)


adjective – (literary) – made of or likened to marble.

[147] References:

It had awakened in me vague memories (…) of Maeterlinck; something Germanic, fin de siècle, had floated over it all.



Maurice Maeterlinck (1862 – 1949) was a Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist. He was awarded the Novel Prize in Literature in 1911. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life.

fin de siècle

French: end of century

[148] Translation:

A double lack of savoir vivre.



French: etiquette


I said rather desperately, “I just feel I’d enjoy it more if I knew what it all meant.”

Then it was as if I had said something that really pleased him. He turned and gave me a smile, took my arm again. We strolled back to the table.

“My dear Nicholas, man has been saying what you have just said for the last ten thousand years. And the one common feature of all those gods he has said it to is that not one of them has ever returned an answer.”


Here’s what the first two lines of the above looks like in the revision (Nicholas is now cool and collected, which he really shouldn’t be):

“I’d enjoy it all more if I knew what it meant.”

That pleased him. He sat back and smiled.


[150] Translation:

“An attempt was made to telephone for the pompiers, but the line had been cut.”

(p.183 / r.p.187)


French: firefighters


“Givray-le-Duc, like the Parthenon, was built on a heart of darkness.”

“Is Bourani built on it?”

“Would you leave at once if I said it was?”


“Then you have no right to ask.”

(p.184 / r.p.188)

[152] Reference:

(Notes [152 – 154] are from the pamphlet Conchis gives to Nicholas: “ON COMMUNICATION WITH OTHER WORLDS.”)

There are many cases, reliably guaranteed by reputable and scientific witnesses, of thoughts being communicated at PRECISELY THE MOMENT they were conceived. Among certain primitive cultures, such as the Lapp, this phenomenon is so frequent, so accepted, that it is used as a matter of everyday convenience.

(p.187 / r.p.190)


Lapp is an outdated term for the Sami people, an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sampi. Their traditional religion included a Shaman, who enabled ritual communication with the supernatural.

I can’t find references to any researchers/studies claiming the Sami used telepathic powers used in “everyday convenience.”

[153] Translation:

This is the only means we shall ever have of communicating with mankind in other worlds. Sic itur ad astra.

(p.187 / r.p.191)


Latin: so we go to the stars

[154] Reference:

He repeats that he does not believe in the “supernatural”; in Rosicrucianism, hermetism, and other such aberrations.

(p.187 / r.p.191)


Rosicrucianism: Philosophical secret society said to have been founded in late medieval Germany by Christian Rosenkreuz.

Hermetism: Religious and philosophical tradition based primarily upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. Supposed single, true theology that God gave to man.

[155] This kind of meta-thinking is a Fowles hallmark. Instead of taking the reader out of the story it strangely enough adds a layer of reality.

I had never had a telepathic experience in my life, and I thought it unlikely I should start with Conchis; and if benevolent gentlemen from other worlds were feeding good deeds and artistic genius into me, they had done it singularly badly.

(p.188 / r.p.191)

[156] Reference:

He was no more than a stalking-horse for Conchis himself.

(p.188 / r.p.192)


noun – a screen traditionally made in the shape of a horse behind which a hunter can stay concealed when stalking prey.

a false pretext hiding someone’s real intentions.

a political candidate who runs only to provoke the election and thus allow a stronger candidate to come forward.


She wore the sea wind like a jewel. It caught her dress, molded it against her body. Every so often she had a little struggle with the sunshade. And all the time fingers of wind teased and skeined her long, silky-blond hair around her neck or across her mouth.

(p.190 / r.p.193)

[158] Vocabulary:

She showed a little moue, half mocking herself, half mocking me.

(p.190 / r.p.193)


noun – a pouting expression used to convey annoyance or distaste.

[159] Vocabulary:

“Are you asking me to commit osculation?”

(p.196 / r.p.198)


noun (1) the act of kissing; a kiss

(2) – (mathematics) – a contact, as between two curves or surfaces at three or more common points.

[160] Reference:

The echo now was of some antiquated village schoolroom, or perhaps of Mrs. Pankhurst, a first timid attempt at female emancipation.



Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928) was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement.

[161] Reference:

“Where did you train?”

“Train?” {She spoke into her knees.}

“Which drama school? RADA?”

(p.203 / r.p.205)


The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, founded in 1904.

[162] Vocabulary:

She drew on the cigarette, normally, not as a tyro.



noun – a beginner or novice.

[163] In the original version, the relationship between Nicholas and Lily is playful. The light mood between them counters the intensity of his interactions with Conchis.

The reader can already see Nicholas’s negative qualities: he is stringing Alison along while pursuing Lily, wanting to have his cake and eat it, too. Fowles doesn’t need to make him any more of a bastard. But in the revised version, that’s exactly what he does.

In Chapter 33 of both versions, Nicholas and Lily meet near some pine trees. The differences in this interaction is the easiest way to show why I prefer the original.

The original:

(After Lily playfully recites “A frog he would a-wooing go” to Nicholas:)

I grinned (…)

She was smiling.

“I have come to gobble you up.”

“Well, I haven’t been a-wooing you yet.”



“I am Astarte, mother of mystery.” The piquant gray-violet eyes dilated, and I had to laugh.

I said, very gently, “Buffoon.”



I reached out and caught her hand. (…)

She said in a small, cold voice, “Please let me go.”




“You’re hurting my wrist.”

“Promise not to go.”

There was a pause. She said, “I promise not to go.” I quickly raised her wrist and kissed it before she could react. She gave me an uncertain glance, then pulled her hand away, but not too roughly.



“I know I don’t love… this other girl. It’s just that she’s been the only person. That’s all.”

“Perhaps to her you seem the only person.”

“There are dozens of other men in her life. Honestly. There’ve been at least three more since I left England (…) It was nothing. Just an affaire.”



I crouched beside her, tapped her shoulder.

“Now listen. All this is very amusing. But it just doesn’t hold water.” (…) I pinched her arm and she winced. (…) “I think this is all fun… but don’t let’s take it all so bloody seriously. Play your charade. But for Christ’s sake don’t try to explain it.”

I knew I had called her bluff then; regained the initiative. (…) I ought to have realized that a little force would do the trick.


Please note here that first edition Nicholas’s definition of using “a little force” involves tapping Lily’s shoulder, speaking roughly, and pinching her arm.

Her eyes were full of very real tears.

I knelt beside her.

She gave a rueful smile and brushed her eyes with the back of her wrist. I put my hand on her shoulder. I could feel the warmth of her skin through the linen; reached in my pocket and found a handkerchief. “Here.”


So, he’s bit of a jerk, right? Pushing her around – verbally, physically – lying about Alison (who, as far as Nicholas knows, has only slept with one other man). But in the same scene in the revised version, Nicholas and Lily are already behaving as though they’re months into a desperately dramatic relationship, not days into being acquaintances. He thinks she owes him something simply because he finds her physically attractive. It’s a revolting character trait.

(Lily dramatically recites from “The Tempest,” to Nicholas)



“I tell you the truth. And you tell me nothing but lies.”

Her eyes were still downcast, but she bit her lips. “I have told you some truths.”

“Such as that black dog you so kindly warned me about?” I added quickly, “And for God’s sake don’t ask me which black dog.” (…)

“Which black dog?”

“The one your twin sister was out with this morning.”

“I have no sister.”

“Balls.” I reclined back on an elbow, smiling at her.



“I am Astarte, mother of mystery.”

The piquant grey-violet eyes dilated, and I smiled, but thinly. I wanted her to know that she was getting very near the bottom of the locker in her improvisings.



“It’s all over between us.” She said nothing. “It’s partly why I came here. To Greece. To get away from what was becoming messy.” I said, “She’s Australian. An air hostess.”

“And you no longer…?”

“No longer what?”

“Love her?”

“It wasn’t that kind of relationship (…) We’re just friends now. We both knew it couldn’t last. We write from time to time.” I added, “You know what Australians are like.” She shook her head. “They’re terribly half-baked culturally. They don’t really know who they are, where they belong. Part of her was very… gauche. Anti-British. Another side… I suppose I felt sorry for her, basically.”


He goes on to give the same “She’s been with three other men” line as in page 205 of the original, just to top off his betrayal Sundae.

Before she could move, I had knelt up and forced her on her back, gripping her shoulders, so that she had to look me in the eyes. I saw a distinct tinge of fear in hers, and I worked on it. “Now listen. All this is very amusing (…)” I gripped her shoulders harder through the thin blouse and she winced. (…) “Play your charade. But for Christ’s sake stop flogging a dead horse. Right?”

I remained staring down in her eyes, and I knew I had won. The fear had given way to a surrender.

She said, “You’re killing my back. There’s a stone or something.”

Victory was confirmed.


This time, Nicholas’s use of force involves pinning Lily down and roughly holding her there until he causes pain. And instead of a hand on the back and a handkerchief, he offers her a smoke. Our hero, folks:

The tears were real, I could see them on her eyelashes. (…)

I squatted beside her; offered her my cigarette, which she took.


“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”



“Would you let me just… recover? Not bully me for five minutes?”

I looked at my watch. “I’ll even give you six. But not a second more.” She reached a hand and I helped her to her feet, but kept the hand. “And I don’t call wanting to know better someone I find quite extraordinarily attractive bullying.”



I sensed, behind the outward daring, the duplicities of the past she had been playing, a delicious ghost of innocence, perhaps even of virginity; a ghost I felt peculiarly well equipped to exorcize, just as soon as time allowed. (…) There was no one in the world I wanted to change places with, now that I had found my Ariadne, and held her by the hand.


Here’s the deal: Revision Nicholas is a man who would justify a violent rape as an act of passion that both parties clearly wanted (even if the woman said no). He would just be “wanting to know better someone he finds quite extraordinarily attractive.” That kind of character is impossible for me to root for – especially when he shows no basic elemental change by the end. But I’m supposed to want him to end up with the girl.

Original version Nicholas is a daft ass but he lacks the underlying threat of sexual violence and base cruelty. I can hope for him to grow as a person and believe that maybe, just maybe, some extreme experience could change him.

Fowles has his share of male characters who assume sexual ownership of a woman once they decide she is attractive. It’s the worst thing about his work. (“I am a feminist,” Fowles asserted in 2003, “Can a feminist be predatory? I certainly at one point used to make after women. But sex is nothing more now than a happy memory.”).

[164] Reference:

It was a copy of the famous Poseidon fished out of the sea near Euboea at the beginning of the century.

(p.207 / r.p.211)


The Artemision Bronze (also called the God from the Sea) is an ancient Greek sculpture that was recovered from the sea off Cape Artemision, in northern Euboea in 1926. It represents either Zeus or Poseidon. It’s damn impressive. There are a couple of pictures over at the Wikipedia page.

Euboea is the second largest Greek island in area and population (after Crete).

[165] Reference:

A thing as modern as [a] Henry Moore and as old as the rock it stood on.

(p.207 / r.p.211)


Henry Moore (1898 – 1986) was an Anglo-Irish sculptor and artist. He was best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures.

[166] Lily gives her second identity (Cambridge student Julie Holmes) to Nicholas on page 305 in the original but much sooner, page 211, in the revision.
Conchis’s second version of her identity is Julie Holes, schizophrenic. He tells this to Nicholas on page 215 in the original and page 222 in the revision.

In the revised version, Nicholas begins to think of her completely as Julie after this (except for a slip on page 236). In the original, he continues to think of her as Lily for almost the entire run, eventually adopting a back-and-forth between the names.

[167] Reference:

I imagined a girl who had perhaps been a little bit of a blue-stocking, despite her looks.



noun – (derogatory) – an intellectual or literary woman. Reference to the 18th-century Blue Stockings Society. The term developed negative connotations.


There are three types of intelligent person: the first so intelligent that being called [very] intelligent must seem natural and obvious; the second sufficiently intelligent to see that he is being flattered, not described; the third so little intelligent that he will believe anything.

(p.219 / r.p.228)


“We are none of us what we look.”

(p.219 / r.p.228)

[170] Translation:

“Go to Athens, {Nicholas} [my friend].” He glanced towards the trees to the east. “Guai a chi la tocca.”

I had very little Italian, but I knew what he meant.

(p.222 / r.p.233)


Italian: woe betide anyone who touches it

[171] Vocabulary:

He poured me a drink from a small carboy-shaped bottle.

(p.222 / r.p.234)


noun – a large globular plastic bottle with a narrow neck, typically protected by a frame and used for holding acids or other corrosive liquids.

[172] References:

“The miserable vultures who prey on the human longing for the solution of final mysteries. The spiritualists, the clairvoyants, the cosmopaths, the summerlanders, the blue-islanders, the apportists – all that galere.”

(p.223 / r.p.235)


The Summerland is the name given by Theosophists, Wiccans and some earth-based contemporary pagan religions to their conceptualization of an afterlife.

The only blue-islander reference I’m finding is a logic puzzle called “The blue-eyed islanders puzzle.” I’m guessing, like Summerland, Conchis’s is referring to a paradise/heaven-like location.

According to paraphychologists and spiritualists, an apport is the paranormal transference of an article from one place to another, or an appearance of an article from an unknown source.


noun – a group or corterie.

[173] Conchis is fascinating. He’s full of shit, but he’s fascinating.

“Mystery has energy. It pours energy into whoever seeks the answer to it. If you disclose the solution to the mystery you are simply depriving the other seekers…” he emphasized the special meaning the word {now} had for me… “of an important source of energy.”

“No scientific progress?”

“Of course scientific progress. The solution of the physical problems that face man – that is a matter of technology. But I am talking about the general psychological health of the species, man. He needs the existence of mysteries. Not their solution.”

(p.223 / r.p.235)

[174] Reference:

“Do you know Cygnus? The Swan? That cross-shaped constellation directly above?”

(p.224 / r.p.235)


The word Cyngus comes from the Latinized Greek word for Swan. In Greek mythology, Cygnus has been identified with several different legendary swans. Zeus disguised himself as a swan to seduce Leda; Orpheus was transformed into a swan after his murder; the King Cygnus was transformed into a swan. The Greeks also associated this constellation with the story of Phaethon, the son of Helios the sun god, who demanded to ride his father’s sun chariot for a day and was destroyed. (But wait, there’s even more.)

[175] Vocabulary:

I thought, my God, he is trying to hypnotize me; and then, I must play by the rules, but I’ll lie doggo and pretend I am hypnotized.

(p.225 / r.p.237)


adverb – (informal) – remain motionless and quiet to escape detection.

[176] Reference:

I remembered that from before [at Oxford]. An insane Welshman from Jesus.

(p.225 / r.p.237)


Jesus College is one of the colleges of the University of Oxford in England.

[177] Reference:

But {Lily} [Julie] – he must also hypnotize her; this was why she could not lie.

Svengali and Trilby

(p.229 / r.p.240)


Novel by George du Maurier, 1894. The title is from the two main characters. Svengali is a Jewish rogue, masterful musician and hypnotist. Trilby is the heroine.

George du Maurier (1834 – 1896) was a French-British cartoonist and author.

Interestingly, he was also Daphne du Maurier’s  grandfather and grandfather to the five boys who inspired Peter Pan (through his daughter Sylvia Llewelyn Davies). Who knew?


Now I saw Conchis as a sort of [psychiatric] novelist sans novel, creating with people, not words.

(p.230 / r.p.242)

[179] Vocabulary:

I was glad, with a simplicity that recalled earliest adolescence, first pash on a girl, that I had the white thread.



noun – (informal, dated) – a brief infatuation

Post 5/9


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