Saturday, September 11, 2010


By A.E.W. Mason

Two excellent movies have been made from AEW Mason’s The Four Feathers, a 1901 novel which is considered a classic of adventure stories. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, because The Four Feathers is as dull as an Al Gore lecture on deforestation in New Jersey.

Harry Feversham is a young subaltern who resigns his commission for fear that he will prove a coward when his regiment ships out for the Sudan. Three of his fellow officers give him white feathers as a mark of disdain. Harry’s fiancée, Ethne, adds a fourth. So Harry sets out for the Sudan to prove ‘em wrong. It’s a capital idea, but Mason leaves us with Ethne having tea parties and reading letters for about 100 or so pages.

Meanwhile, Capt. Durrance, Harry’s friend goes blind, is sent back from the Sudan to Merrie England where he gets hot in the underwear parts for Ethne. No, actually he behaves like an insipid caricature of an effete Englishman, while Mason treats the reader to loads of contrived “if I feel this way she’ll feel that way” treacle that would embarrass Barbara Cartland.

God knows I enjoy some real crap, but at least people in those stories DO THINGS. I was really wishing Harry would tell Ethne “kiss my grits, bee-yotch, I’m shacking up with a native,” or maybe a Dervish warrior would charge the damn tea party and start killing the polite limeys with a big ol’ pig-sticker or something would just please happen, and not happen off-stage and get reported at yet another, freaking, stinking tea-party!

Eventually, Harry redeems himself and returns to London to claim the great-white girlfriend. Me, I’d a told Ethne where she could put her feather.

-Dave Hardy

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