7:47 PM: The title page reads "English Protestant Printing & Publishing Society." It's always helpful when the publisher's name tells you exactly what you need to know about the novel to follow. Reduces the agony of suspense, and all that.
7:49 PM: A quick Googling suggests that despite the publisher's grandiose title, St. Dorothy's Home may have been its sole production (at least, under this name). Bode well, this does not.
7:51 PM: And, to make matters even worse, the novel got a good review from the Bulwark. The Bulwark was about as good a judge of literary talent as I am of the latest advances in astrophysics.
Note that I have yet to make it past the title page.
7:53: The table of contents rhymes. Rhymes, I say:
A Weary Pilgrimage, to Visit Dead Men’s Shrines, has much Merit in it, say Puseyite Divines-—Cardinal Jollity—Priestly Morality—Wesleyan Malignity—Prayers for the Dead most Desirable, if Anglicans would prove Reliable—Curates Negative Deflection from Rectorial Direction
I don't know if I should salute, take a stiff drink, or undergo a conversion experience to canonical literature.
8:00 PM: I could be wrong, but it seems to me that quoting Macbeth to describe an town full of innocently dozing villagers is...overblown.
Still, I've finally made it to the first page, after being stunned senseless by the rhyming TOC.
Oh look, a convenient interruption in the form of a phone call. My brains are safe for at least the next few minutes.
8:13 PM: Phone call over. I guess this means I need to get beyond the first page.
Or I could frantically search for ballet videos to watch on YouTube.
8:19 PM: I slowly drag myself back to St. Dorothy's Home, only to find the author misquoting Edward Young. Still on the first page, incidentally.
8:20 PM: I arrive on page two, only to find myself battered by a terrible pun ("besides holding sundry livings, the soul charge of which he delegated to hungry curates"). Italicizing the pun is such a nice touch; we might miss it otherwise.
8:22 PM: Snoreham Cathedral?!
8:24 PM: I'm defeated by the doggerel verse on p. 3, which doesn't appear to be an actual quotation from anything. If it is, it's been mangled, masticated, and manipulated beyond hope of reconstruction.
8:26 PM: Not another pun.
8:27 PM: Death by Tractarian sermon, eh? That's...um...different.
8:29 PM: YEEEEAAAAARRRRGH! This illustration of John Henry Newman is going to haunt my nightmares for the next seven years, at least. Why does he look like a human-fish-parrot mutation? Is he some bizarre offshoot of Cthulhu?
8:32 PM: We've moved from Snoreham to Boreham, thereby cementing my estimate of the author's originality on the satirical names front.
8:33 PM: Dubbing a church "Nothingmore" (i.e., Littlemore) is a trifle obvious, don't you think?
8:36 PM: Apparently, there was a coffin controversy in the 1860s. I can now rest easy, knowing that I've learned something useful from this experience.
8:38 PM: I see we're going to be banging on about the dangers of confession.
8:39 PM: Annnnnd the local medievalist sculptor is named...Chizzel.
8:40 PM: Which goes along with a Protestant preacher named Esau Bones.
8:41 PM: Whose curate bears the moniker of Narcissus Smiles.
8:43 PM: Lord Byron seems awfully inappropriate in a novel of this type. Then again, perhaps the novelist was under the mistaken impression that he was writing a Protestant Don Juan.
I feel a desperate urge for food, no doubt brought on by the draining effect of exposure to lousy puns.
8:47 PM: Now that I've been fed, I can once again face my punishment.
8:49 PM: This rebellious sister (as in Anglican sisterhood, not sibling) makes her case by endlessly spouting Shakespeare, which is one way of doing it, I suppose.
8:51 PM: Two pages have gone mysteriously missing from this Google scan. Presumably, whoever was operating the scanner understood how dangerous this book would be to my psychological well-being, and therefore reduced the length of the torment.
8:56 PM: Is it absolutely necessary for the narrator to burst out into quotations every five seconds? I feel like I'm reading a Wikipedia article overdosed on "citation needed."
8:59 PM: On one page, we collect "Dryasdust," "Gabriel Drones," "Benedict Cowls," and "Catchemall."
9:02 PM: The author is attempting to do dialects. This is going about as well as it does in, say, lower-end fanfic.
9:04 PM: I am beset by the growing suspicion that our novelist is a Dissenter. Quite possibly because this Dissenting character has been spouting perfectly reasonable theology for the past several paragraphs, unlike everyone else we've met so far.
9:05 PM: Methodist, to be precise.
Another quick trawl through YouTube in search of anything to distract myself from the agony.
9:10 PM: OMG OMG OMG! There are Anglican sisters who have "bare legs"! I hope you're all trembling at the enormity of this revelation.
Done trembling? We'll move on.
9:12 PM: Yet another utterly inappropriate quotation from Shakespeare.
9:15 PM: More Shakespeare?! Look, I'm as down with the Bard as anyone, but can't we let the poor fellow rest peacefully in his grave? Does he have to march zombiefied through this novel?
9:17 PM: Glug. Another horrific pun. I recant! Bring back the inappropriate Shakespeare!
9:17 PM: I spoke too soon--two terrible puns in the space of a single paragraph. This is not elevating my estimate of the Bulwark's literary taste.
Perhaps I'll watch some dubstep dancing as a change of pace.
9:26 PM: Ah, the dangers of preaching while there are owls in the belfry. I'm sure we've all been there.
9:28 PM: It's another zombie Shakespeare quotation, lurching through the narrative in search of brains!
I think I need to go watch some more ballet.
9:37 PM: Whew! Back now.
9:40 PM: No wonder I couldn't find this quotation. What on earth has Alexander Pope done that he should be botched so?
A cat has just wandered in front of the computer, reminding me of the really important things in life.
9:52 PM: Back to walloping confession again, thanks to Mr. Faithful. You know, after Bunyan has done allegorical names once, you probably shouldn't do them again.
9:55 PM: It looks like our novelist has resurrected a poem on confession that was circulating amongst Protestants in the mid-to-late 1850s, but has passed it off without any acknowledgement of its origins.
9:57 PM: I am temporarily distracted from the thundering cavalcade of theological cliches by this error in subject-verb agreement.
10:01 PM: What does the novelist have against vertically-challenged clergymen?
10:02 PM: OK, I'll grant points for originality to "turned up his eyes like a dying duck."
10:04 PM: However, the novelist promptly loses all said points for making one Rev. Mr. Hogg read Charles Lamb's "Essay on Roast Pig." Things do not improve elsewhere on the page.
10:09 PM: Dialecting again.
Excuse me while I pace around randomly for several minutes, bemoaning my self-inflicted lot.
10:26 PM: I return, only to be suddenly buried under an avalanche of prooftexts. Has anyone seen my shovel?
10:29 PM: Gawwwwd, not another blasted pun.
10:31 PM: The author has the temerity to snark at a clergyman who makes up his sermons out of quotations. The pot hasn't just met the kettle; it's actively romancing it.
On that note, we've made it halfway through the novel. Tune in tomorrow...