Two Memorable Dialogue Exchanges from Victorian Novels: Corelli and Eliot


Yes, hello.  Below you’ll find two pithy and memorable dialogue excerpts from Victorian fiction.  Plus wee set-ups.

1) Set-up: Prince Lucio (the Devil but a charming and unusually pious Devil) has taken charge of the wedding festivities for a reception.  Lucio, using actors and supernatural elements, stages a series of preachy scenarios– the last “Faith and Materialism” ends with a broken skeleton.  A couple of “long and twining” worms weave their way through the bones and out the eye-holes of the skull.  This causes consternation among the wedding guests.


“Well, it was not a pleasant subject, that last tableau,” said Lord Elton, as he came out of the theatre with Diana Chesney hanging confidingly on his arm.  “You cannot say it was festal.”

“It was,– for the worms!” replied Lucio gaily.

(This is my favorite dialogue exchange in all of literature.  From The Sorrows of Satan by Marie Corelli.)

2) Set-up: Dorothea, an overly idealistic young girl is due to marry an old pill.  He is a cold man, of few words, has furry moles, and scrapes his spoon while eating soup. Dorothea’s down-to-earth sister Cecilia and also the wise Mrs. Cadwallader are repulsed by her choice of husband.


“I am so sorry for Dorothea.”

“Sorry!  It is her doing, I suppose.”

“Yes; she says Mr. Casaubon has a great soul.”

“With all my heart.”

“Oh, Mrs. Cadwallader, I don’t think it can be nice to marry a man with a great soul.”

“Well, my dear, take warning.  You know the look of one now; when the next comes and wants to marry you, don’t accept him.”

(This is pretty great too.  George Eliot doesn’t get enough credit for having a sense of humor.  Or, I guess, humour.  From Middlemarch.)

Unrelated Addendum:  3 additions to Great Blogs grid.

chicagoliterati:  Wonderful blog for updates and schedules on Chicago’s Live Lit scene.  Also, offers plenty of fun twitter contests. Warning– emails its followers a lot.  Sometimes 3 or 4 times a day.

outlawmama:  The creator of this blog read out loud a hilarious story at Open Books bookstore.  (Part of Chicago Writer Conference’s “Tales from the Office” series.)  Whether it’s a book review or a personal struggle– her writing is excellent and honest. Well, how would I know?  But it sounds true.

musings: This blog concerns books and all things literary as pertain to Parnassus– the Nashville bookstore co-owned by fiction writer Ann Patchett.  I recently read Patchett’s collection of essays “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.”  Highly highly recommended.  “Bel Canto” is my other favorite book of hers.

Unrelated Addendum #2:  Gregor Samsa’s surname translates to “I am alone” in phonetic Czech. Huh!


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