Write like the wind

A few days ago on Facebook a friend despaired of ever getting his Master’s thesis written, and others chimed in with reassurances and encouragement. Somewhat bizarrely, I was reminded of something I wrote to the newsgroup soc.motss back in May 1996: a recollection of a radio dramatization of Ouida’s romantic adventure novel Under Two Flags (set in the Algerian desert), with a character who cries out at a crucial moment.:

My name is Cigarette, and I can ride like the wind!

And so she can. Meanwhile, I slightly revised the quotation, to:

My name is N, and I can write like the wind!

A mantra for the frustrated writer.

Now some words about Ouida and one of her most famous books. From Wikipedia:


Ouida (1 January 1839 – 25 January 1908) was the pseudonym of the English novelist Maria Louise Ramé (although she preferred to be known as Marie Louise de la Ramée).

… She moved into the Langham Hotel, London in 1867. There, according to the hotel promotional materials, she wrote in bed, by candlelight, with the curtains drawn and surrounded by purple flowers. She ran up huge hotel and florists bills, and commanded soirees that included soldiers, politicians, literary lights (including Oscar Wilde, Algernon Swinburne, Robert Browning and Wilkie Collins), and artists (including John Millais). Many of her stories and characters were based upon people she invited to her salons at The Langham. Ouida was described by William Allingham in his diary of 1872 as of short stature, with a “sinister, clever face” and with a “voice like a carving knife.”

For many years Ouida lived in London, but about 1871 she moved to Italy. In 1874, she settled permanently with her mother in Florence, and there long pursued her work as a novelist.

…During her career, Ouida wrote more than 40 novels, children’s books and collections of short stories and essays.

… In her early period, her novels were considered “racy” and “swashbuckling”, a contrast to “the moralistic prose of early Victorian literature” (Tom Steele), and a hybrid of the sensationalism of the 1860s and the proto-adventure novels being published as part of the romanticisation of imperial expansion. Later her work was more typical of historical romance, though she never stopped comment on contemporary society. She also wrote several stories for children.

Under Two Flags [1867], one of her most well-known novels, described the British in Algeria. It expressed sympathy for the French colonists (called pieds noirs) — with whom Ouida deeply identified — and, to some extent, the Arabs. This book was adapted as dramatic plays, and was adapted six times as a film.

The novel in more detail:

The novel is about The Hon. Bertie Cecil (nicknamed Beauty of the Brigades). [Bertie Cecil is a twit name, but his nickname indicates that he’s a handsome devil.]

In financial distress because of his own profligacy and the loss of an important horse-race on which he has bet extensively, and falsely accused of forgery, but unable to defend himself against the charge without injuring the “honour” of a lady and also exposing his younger brother (the real culprit), Cecil fakes his own death and exiles himself to Algeria where he joins the Chasseurs d’Afrique, a regiment comprising soldiers from various countries, rather like the French Foreign Legion.

After Cecil’s great childhood friend and the friend’s beautiful sister show up in Africa, and after a series of melodramatic self-sacrifices by Cecil and by the young girl Cigarette, a “child of the Army” who sacrifices her life saving Cecil from a firing squad, the main conflicts are resolved and the surviving characters return to England to fortune, title, and love.


A poster for one of the movie versions (from 1936, with Ronald Colman as Bertie Cecil and Claudette Colbert as Cigarette):


Word: Write like the wind!

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