Thursday, March 01, 2012

Some notes from The Painted Veil

I noticed I still have many Post-it notes in my copy of The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (<---my review) so this post is simply a compilation of bits and pieces that I don't want to forget. For starters, some vocabulary:

Sentence: "Where's your topee?"

topee - Pith hat; a lightweight hat worn in tropical countries for protection from the sun.

Sentence: "She called him pusillanimous."

pusillanimous - Showing a lack of courage or determination; timid.

Sentence: "The vivid scenes with their elegant color, their unexpected distinction, and their strangeness, were like an arras before which, like mysterious, shadowy shapes, played the phantoms of Kitty's fancy."

arras - A tapestry, wall hanging.


On page 199 of my copy, one of the characters claims another character died of a broken heart because of his or her last words (I'm being cagey, here -- don't want to potentially spoil the book for anyone): "The dog it was that died." Here's the poem from which that last line hails:

By Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774)

Good people all of every sort,
Give ear unto my song;
And if you find it wondrous short,--
It cannot hold you long.

In Islington there was a man,
Of whom the world might say
That still a godly race he ran,--
Whene'er he went to pray.

A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friend and foes;
The naked every day he clad,--
When he put on his clothes.

And in that town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound,
And curs of low degree.

The dog and man at first were friends;
But when a pique began,
The dog, to gain some private ends,
Went mad, and bit the man.

Around from all the neighboring streets,
The wondering neighbors ran,
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man.

The wound it seemed both sore and sad,
To every Christian eye,
And while they swore the dog was mad
They swore the man would die.

But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied;
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.

"An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog" is reprinted from A Nonsense Anthology. Ed. Carolyn Wells. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915.

"An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog" makes some sense of what happens in A Painted Veil, actually. I'm glad I looked it up.


An excerpt that backs up my comment that a few little lines in the movie constituted a senseless attack on Catholicism:

"It is a great misfortune to have a heart," said Kitty, with a smile.
"It is a great good fortune to consecrate that heart to the love of Jesus."

It is the Mother Superior who responds to Kitty.


And, an expression I love:

"He was a thundering good chap, and he'll be missed here more than I can say."

I wish I could say someone was a "thundering good chap" without sounding pretentious. What a great expression!

©2012 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I wish I could call someone that too! Lol. That poem is quite interesting when you compare it to the story. I'm glad you looked it up or I would never have read it.

    1. That Jenny, she's a thundering fine gal. Yes, that was very satisfying. :)

      Isn't the poem perfect? When I read that line -- which is very different from the death-bed line in the movie -- I was baffled. But, it makes total sense when you read the poem!

    2. LOL! I like being called a thundering fine gal! But "chap" has a nicer ring to it. Too bad I'm not a guy. ;)

    3. Yeah, "chap" is good. I don't know what British people call women in a casual mode, other than "birds". Figured you wouldn't want to be called a thundering great bird. That just sounds rude, somehow.

  2. I have wanted to read this book for a very long time, but your post just lights a fire underneath me to find a copy!

    1. Cool, Zibilee! I like being a fire-lighter. I'm very fond of Maugham and there is so much to think about and discuss in The Painted Veil. I do hope you'll find a copy. If you're a swapper, you'll find that there are plenty of copies available at Paperback Swap.

  3. Anonymous5:33 AM

    Do you think Walter forgives?

    1. It's been two years since I read The Painted Veil and I'm afraid I don't recall but I thought neither of them softened in the book. I liked the movie's ending better, for that reason.

  4. I have read the book and seen the movie. I was very sorry the way the book ended. However I did look up the "ELEGY" and still I am still not sure how the doctor intended his remark. Is she the Dog or was he?


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