Good Mr. Oover

“Mr. Oover’s moral tone, and his sense of chivalry, were of the American kind: far higher than ours, even, and far better expressed. Whereas the English guests of the Junta, when they heard the tale of Nellie O’Mora, would merely murmur ‘Poor girl!’ or ‘What a shame!’ Mr. Oover said in a tone of quiet authority that compelled Greddon’s ear ‘Duke, I hope I am not incognisant of the laws that govern the relations of guest and host. But, Duke, I aver deliberately that the founder of this fine old club, at which you are so splendidly entertaining me to-night, was an unmitigated scoundrel. I say he was not a white man.’” Zuleika Dobson, 125-6.

Such is the deadpan of Max’s satire here that you might not have noticed the moral stupidity of Mr. Oover till that final utterance of his, which exposes his utter fatuity (not to speak of his pomposity). Notice how eager he is to condemn someone he foolishly blames, rather than sympathize with poor Nellie; but also note the ridiculous use of “Duke” as a term of ostensible respect. Max knows how to skewer a man with his own blade. And is not the type still with us?

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