Westbrook jokes about the novel

In these little jokes in clerihew form, Westbrook appears to be poking fun at FR Leavis (1895 – 1978), a famously cantankerous academic critic with strong views on which writers did and did not qualify for inclusion in the great tradition of the English novel. Of those mentioned, Jane Austen, Henry James, DH Lawrence and Joseph Conrad were in: Trollope, along with more surprising exclusions like Dickens and Thomas Hardy, was out. I do not know what Leavis thought about Proust, whose characters included Charlus and Morel. Apologies for Westbrook’s language about Lawrence, but it is nothing that Lawrence himself was unwilling to use. Mrs Proudie was the nasty wife of a Bishop in Trollope’s novels. Trollope heard two strangers at his club saying that they were fed up with her, introduced himself, went straight home and killed her off.

Emma Woodhouse
Was no retiring Mouse.
But why, when so adventurous for one’s friend,
Settle for a Father-figure in the end?

Anthony Trollope
Would have felt it quite a wallop
Not to be allowed to be
A God in Dr Leavis’s theology.

Mrs Proudie
Was bigoted and loud. She
Came to a sticky end, poor soul,
When a clubman found her no longer droll.

Poor Lord Jim!
One feels so sad for him.
At first of course he should have stayed,
But in the end perhaps he overpaid.

Henry James
Often declaims
At too great and sophisticated length
For readers of modest literary strength.

D H Lawrence
Professed complete abhorrence
For working-class company:
“I like fucking toffs’ wives, me!”

Charlie Morel
Never behaved well:
Buggering Robert de Saint Loup,
And landing poor old Charlus in the soup.