Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The Day's Progress - Wednesday Edition

A kinda sucky day, especially considering I had a full day to work and still managed to get less done than I did in a half-day yesterday. I should know that whenever I have to consult maps, as I did today, I'm going to lose bags of time. Today it was the better part of an hour figuring out the route someone would take from Marylebone to the Crystal Palace station in Sydenham in 1897. (My best guess: Inner Circle Line from Baker Street Station to Victoria Station on the Underground, then the Crystal Palace Railway from Victoria to Crystal Palace.) Still, having beat my quota on Monday and Tuesday, I'm still ahead of schedule for the week.

Today I finished up with the League of the Round Table, and then brought Mervyn Fawkes onstage. Fawkes, former member of the Royal Geographical Society, is a major character in End of the Century, for all that he doesn't appear on stage until the last half of the middle act (or does he...?). He originally appeared in the short story "Secret Histories: Professor Peter R. Bonaventure, 1885," which can be read in its entirety online, and which was collected in the long-unavailable Cybermany Incorporated. Peter Bonaventure doesn't appear in End of the Century, but his sidekick Jules Dulac does (and there may be a connection between him and the Giles Dulac who figures heavily in the new sections of Set the Seas on Fire). The Peter Bonaventure story, all about British explorers on a floating island in the Atlantic, is a significant piece of backstory for End of the Century, since it introduces so many of the key players in "Jubilee," and explains just what happened to unhinge Fawkes.

Here's a longer sample today, setting up Fawkes's reintroduction in the new story.
The next morning, when Miss Bonaventure arrived at his house in York Place, Blank was hustling out the door to meet her, before she’d even climbed down from the cab.

“Baker Street Station,” Blank called out to the driver, climbing in beside her.

“Going on a journey, are we, Blank?” Miss Bonaventure asked.

“Just a brief excursion, my dear,” Blank said with a smile. “Do you fancy a trip south to Crystal Palace?”

“Lawks!” Miss Bonaventure mimed fanning herself with her hand. “In this heat?”

“Ah, you’re a delicate flower, Miss Bonaventure. Console yourself, though, my dear. Perhaps when our business is concluded you can cool yourself by the waters of the Boating and Fishing Lake.”

At Baker Street, they boarded an Underground train on the Inner Circle line, and as they rumbled through the stifling heat of the tunnels, Blank told Miss Bonaventure what he’d been about, since last they’d parted.

“I was up half the night,” he explained, “digging up what information I could about the Mervyn Fawkes whom the members of the League remembered.”

“What did you find?” Miss Bonaventure asked, now fanning herself in earnest, raising her voice to be heard over the rattle of the train’s wheels over the tracks.

Flashing her a smile, Blank pulled a notebook from an inner pocket of his suit jacket, and in the dim light consulted his notes.

“Mervyn Fawkes. Born 1858, London, the son of a mathematician. Studied geography, cartography, and mathematics at Oxford, where he received a PhD in Geography and Cartography. Later tenured at Cambridge. Fawkes was a junior representative to the Royal Geographical Society on Joseph Thompson’s later expeditions through eastern Africa, and his contribution to the effort were later noted by the Society’s president.”

“Not quite the raving loon of the League’s remembrances, I shouldn’t think,” Miss Bonaventure observed.

“Give him time, my dear, give him time.” Blank returned his attentions to his notes. “Fawkes wrote a monograph entitled ‘On the problem of accurately sounding the depths of the continental shelf and the mid-Atlantic reaches,’ which was published in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1883. It appears that there was some sort of incident on an expedition for the RGS in 1885, after which Fawkes was briefly a voluntary patient at the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. A short while later he left the institution against his doctor’s wishes. He seemed then to develop an interest in philology, of all things. The May 1888 edition of the Modern Language Notes journal contained a letter from Fawkes in the Correspondence section, in response to a essay on the subject of ‘The Old French Merlin’ which ran in the March edition of that year, while the December 1888 edition of the Modern Language Notes journal carried a review by Fawkes on James M. Garnett’s Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Poem.”

“Fascinating reading, I’m sure.”

Blank offered a sly grin. “Given my struggles to remain awake and cogent in the early morning hours as I reviewed the text, I might be forced to disagree. In any event, in the autumn of 1889 there is a record of Fawkes booking passage on a tramp steamer bound for Reykjavik, but no indication that he returned. Not, that is, until he appeared on the employment rolls of the Crystal Palace in late April of this year.”

Miss Bonaventure cocked an eyebrow. “Where, one assumes, he works still?”

Blank’s grin broadened. “So it would appear.”

She nodded, appreciatively. “Fair enough. I think a brief foray is justified, to see what our Mr. Fawkes has to tell us.”

“My thinking exactly, Miss Bonaventure.”

Studied geography, cartography, and mathematics at Oxford, where he received a PhD in Geography and Cartography. Later tenured at Cambridge.

The Ph.D is a 20th century degree, and even now Oxford doesn't award them (they award the D.Phil, instead). Back in the 19th century, Fawkes probably would have gotten an M.A. (see here for more). Tenure is also a 20th century concept, and not really used in the UK; instead, you'd say he was appointed as a lecturer.
Hey, thanks, Ted!! I'd originally written Fawkes's bio *years* ago, for a much older story, and dropped it in here without even bothering to check if any of it was accurate (this, after spending hours figuring out how much a ticket from Victoria to Crystal Palace would have cost...). The correction is *much* appreciated!
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