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The Crimson Petal and the White
by Michael Faber


p.6 Few know what year it is, or even that eighteen and a half centuries have passed since a Jewish troublemaker was hauled away to the gallows for disturbing the peace.

p.53 One afternoon wasted on it ought to be enough, surely? Granted, he once opined in a Cambridge undergraduate magazine that 'a single day spent doing things which fail to nourish the soul is a day stolen, mutilated, and discarded in the gutter of destiny."

p.63 The bald facts are these: Rackham Senior is getting tired of running Rackham Perfumeries, damn tired. His first-born, Henry, is no use whatsoever as an heir, having devoted himself to God from a young age. A decent enough fellow and, as a frugal bachelor, not much of a bother to support--although, if he really means to make his career in the Church, he's taking a powerful long time deliberating over it. But never mind: the younger boy, William, will have to do. Like Henry, he's slow to show a talent for anything, but he has expensive tastes, a stylish wife and a fair-sized household--all of which suck hard at the nipple of paternal generosity.

p.73 And so the passing strollers in St James's Park are transformed unwittingly into sirens, and each glowing boy becomes suggestive of its social shadow, the prostitute. And to a blind little penis, swaddled in trousers, there is no difference between a whore and a lady, except that the whore is available, with no angry champions to deal with, no law on her side, no witnesses, no complaints. Therefore, when William Rackham finds himself possessed of an erection, his immediate impulse is to take it directly to the nearest whore.

p.100 William had no desire to smoke, but vapour issues from his person nonetheless: his damp clothing is beginning to steam.

p.144 'Mmm,' he says. The hum is an all-purpose, incorporating agreement, bemusement, a mouthful of sausage--whatever Agnes cares to glean from it.

p.201 Henry stands at his brother's front door (the door that could have been his own, garlanded with an ornate brass 'R'), and pulls the bell. Even before the cord stops swinging, he is aware that much has changed at the Rackham house since he visited, sans Mrs Fox, several weeks ago. Maybe it's the way the brass 'R' gleams, transmuted almost into gold by vigorous polishing. Maybe it's the way the doorbell is answered in seconds rather than minutes, or the way Letty greets them so avidly, as though a fresh coat of obsequiousness has just been applied to her.

p.217 Agnes Rackham has a new routine. Every morning, if she can possibly manage it, she takes a walk in the street outside her own house, alone. She is going to get well if it kills her.

p.233 'Bring on Flatelli!' a brutish voice shouts, prompting William to reflect on how handy common people can be, when one wants something impolite said.

p.317 Anyhow, the underlying principles of commerce are so simple, even an imbecile could understand them: convince you're customers you're generous when in fact you're forcing them to pay dear for what you have produced cheap.
     Conversation with a boring man likewise had its underlying principles: Principle One: humbly apologize for your ignorance, even when you know what he's about to explain. Principle Two: at the point when he grows weary of explaining, appear to grasp everything in an instant.

p.362 My name is Sugar--or if it isn't, I know no better.
     I am what you would call a Fallen Woman, but I assure you I did not
     fall--I was pushed. Vile man, eternal Adam, I indict you!


p.373-374 What, thinks Sugar, can William be seeking here? The Tewkesbury is a notorious meeting-place for homosexuals, and here are two well-dressed gentlemen advancing on him with outstretched arms. For a moment her lips curl in bemused disgust: have these florid fellows, now slapping William affectionately on the back, managed to lure him away from her bed? Impossible! No one plays the silent flute better than she does!

p.444 I watched the Fine Ladies parading out of the Opera House. (So wrote the Sugar of three years ago, a mere child of sixteen, cloistered in her upstairs room at Mrs Castaway's, in the grey morning hours after the customers had gone home and everyone was asleep. What shams they were! Everything about them was false. False were their pretenses of rapture at the music; false were their greetings to each other; false their accents and their voices.
     How vainly they pretended they were not Women at all, but some other, higher form of Creature! Their ball-gowns designed to give the impression that they did not walk on two fleshy legs, but rather glided on a cloud. 'Oh no,' they seemed to say. 'I do not have legs and a cunt between them. I float on Air. Nor have I breasts, only a delicate curve to give shape to my bodice. If you want anything so gross as breasts, go see the udders of wet-nurses. As for legs, and a cunt between them, if you want those, you will have to go to a Whore. We are Perfect Creatures, Rare Spirits, and we trade only in the noblest and finest things in Life. Namely, the Slave Labour of poor seamstresses, Torture of our servants, Contempt for those who scrub our chamber pots clean of our exalted maidenly shit, and an endless round of silly, hollow, meaningless pursuits that have no


p.462 Grieving friends and relations need to feel that the dead man is going forth from them in the body he had when they last saw him alive; his decay ought to be slow, as slow as the decay of their memories of him. To blast someone to a cinder when, in the minds of his loved ones, he's still large as life, is perverse. And besides, what's to become of all the grave-diggers? Have the cremationists thought of that? And what about the horse-drivers, the funeral footmen so forth? Burial generates more industry, and keeps more men gainfully employed, than most folk could imagine. Why, even Rackham Perfumeries would suffer if it were abolished, for there'd no longer be any call for Rackham's scented coffin sachets, nor the cosmetics Rackham's sells to undertakers.

p.517 'Ach,' she says. 'There ain't nuffink in this world but men and women, is there? So you got to care about 'em, else what you got to care about?"

p.576 'God bless Papa and Mama,' says Sophie, kneeling at the side of her bed, her tiny hand arranged in a steeple on the coverlet. 'God bless Nurse.' So incantory is her tone that it hardly seems to manner that of this triumvirate, two have scant involvement in Sophie's life and the third has abandoned her to suckle a new baby called Barrett. Father, Mother and Nurse are folkloric fixtures like Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or Great Huge Bear, Middle Bear, and Little Small Wee Bear.
     '...and I am grateful that I am a little girl in England with a home and a bed, and God bless the little black children in Africa, who have no beds, and God bless all the little yellow children in Africa, who are made to eat rats...'

p.626 None of us can hope to be immortal unless it be in the spirit through Christ (see Romans 6:7-10; I Corinthians 15:22 and most particularly 15:50.)

p.671-672 Some distance from the Rackhams, in a modest house stacked to the ceilings with rubbish and surplus furniture, Emmeline Fox sits eating fruit mince while her cat purrs at her naked feet. Before you jump to conclusions: it's only her feet that are naked today; the rest of her is fully, unimpeachably dressed--indeed, she still wears her bonnet, for she's been out and about. A visit to her father to give him his Christmas present--a pointless exercise, since he celebrates nothing and desires nothing, but he's her father, and she's his daughter, so there it is. Every year they give each other a book, destined to remain unread, and wish each other a merry Christmas, though Doctor Curlew doesn't believe in Christ, and Emmeline doesn't believe that her Saviour was born on the 25th of December. Such are the silly compromises we make, to preserve peace with those of our own blood.

p.706-707 If only he could make contact with his household here and now, to confirm Agnes's safety. Only last week, he read an article in Hogg's Review, about a device very soon to be produced in America, a contrivance of magnets and diaphragms, which converts the human voice into electrical vibrations, thus making possible the transmission of speech across vast distances. If only this mechanism were in general use already! Imagine: he could speak a few words, receive the answer, 'Yes, she's here and sleeping,' and be spared this misery of uncertainty.

p.779-780 Recalling these things in his parlour as the rain begins to ease and his head droops back onto one of Agnes's embroidered antimacassars, William suddenly sneezes. This, too, reminds him of radiant Agnes Unwin--in particular, how irritatingly, delightfully, superstitious she was. When he asked why she always exclaimed the words 'God bless you' so promptly--and loudly-whenever anyone sneezed, she explained that during that momentary convulsion, the invisible demons tha fly about us may seize their chance to enter. Only if a considerate bystander blesses us in the name of God, when we're too busy crying 'Achoo' to bless ourselves, can we be sure we haven't been invaded.

p.850 "One long difficult word is the same as a whole sentence full of short, easy ones."