Friday, 24 January 2014

A Steel Pen The Most Odious Thing in Nature

"Miss Stackpole, however, is your most wonderful invention. She strikes me as a kind of monster. One hasn’t a nerve in one’s body that she doesn’t set quivering. You know I never have admitted that she’s a woman. Do you know what she reminds me of? Of a new steel pen – the most odious thing in nature. She talks as a steel pen writes; aren’t her letters, by the way, on ruled paper? She thinks and moves and walks and looks exactly as she talks. You may say that she doesn’t hurt me inasmuch as I don’t see her. I don’t see her, but I hear her, I hear her all day long. Her voice is in my ears, I can’t get rid of it."

Henry James, Portrait of a Lady, first published 1880-1.

Why the most odious thing in nature? Is this an echo of the sentiments of steel-pen opponents "the steel pen is the true root of all evil"?

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