Insult of the Week: may your constituency reject you

In chapter XI of Richard Marsh’s 1897 work of weird horror, The Beetle, narrator Sydney Atherton has discovered that his beloved childhood friend Marjorie intends to marry the politician Paul Lessingham – who is much older than Sydney (“and a wretched Radical!”).  Not to put too fine a point upon it, Sydney is unimpressed.

[T]o think of him in connection with such a girl as Marjorie Lindon,—preposterous! Why, the man’s as dry as a stick,—drier! And cold as an iceberg. Nothing but a politician, absolutely… If you were to sink a shaft from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, you would find inside him nothing but the dry bones of parties and of politics… [W]hat my Marjorie could see in such a dry-as-dust out of which even to construct the rudiments of a husband was beyond my fathoming.

Sydney roams the London streets in the rain and wind, growing more incensed the more he thinks about the issue, until he finds himself outside Lessingham’s residence, whereupon “[l]ike the idiot I was, I went out into the middle of the street, and stood awhile in the mud to curse him and his house”.

‘May your following,’ I cried,—it is an absolute fact that the words were shouted!—’both in the House and out of it, no longer regard you as a leader! May your party follow after other gods! May your political aspirations wither, and your speeches be listened to by empty benches! May the Speaker persistently and strenuously refuse to allow you to catch his eye, and, at the next election, may your constituency reject you!

sherlock holmes - lashing
Sherlock Holmes is standing in for his close contemporary Sydney Atherton in this scene, because “angry man ranting at a house” is a surprisingly difficult image type to locate.

In the deposition that forms the basis for his section of The Beetle‘s narrative, Atherton looks back on the incident with a surprising amount of self-awareness:

…on the whole, when one considers that that is the kind of man I can be, it is, perhaps, not surprising that Marjorie disdained me.

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