Dialect of Hell

Illustrations by Portia Rosenberg

Again, Susanna Clarke’s humor is sharp. Mr. Strange is out helping Lord Wellington and the British army fight the French. Due to some unusual circumstances, Mr.Strange must bring a few dead soliders from the otherside back to life. I burst out laughing at this passage from Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrel.

Then one of the corpses revived and began to speak in a guttural language which contained a much higher proportion of screams than any language known to onlookers.
Even Wellington looked a little pale. Only Strange continued apparently without emotion.
“Dear God!” cried Fitzroy, “What Language is that?”
“I believe it is one of the dialects of Hell,” said Strange.
“Is it indeed?” Said Somerset. “Well, that is remarkable.”
“They have learnt it very quickly,” said Lord Wellington. “They have only been dead three days.” He approved of people doing things promptly and in businesslike fashion.

That punchline at the end perfectly captures Lord Wellington in a way a thousand pages of description cannot. Apparently to Lord Wellington, he would behave properly and do things promptly even if he found himself in hell.

That is funny.


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