Tom Hall is a bit too fat, a bit too rich, a bit too kind. There he sits preposterous, in the middle of his novel. But around him Surtees contructs a galaxy of stars – roguish Dragoons fleece him, minxy virgins ensnare him, noblemen patronise him and his poor father loves and lavishes on him through thick spectacles. As Cyril Ray wrote from the Albany in our introduction, “The set pieces are as brilliant as any that Surtees did.. Colonel Blunt’s uproariously offensive social call.. the the dansante in his married quarters.
Elsewhere the snapshot we are afforded of Lord Heartycheer is sublime, a roue gallivanting forth from his castle, pack of hounds barely clothing the exercise of his droit de seigneur. This book is routinely dismissed because Surtees refused to finish it (after his publisher broke an agreement) so it is rarely read and has few purchasers.
But what a lucky few.
“I say Mrs Buss, what d’ye think your husband says?” roared the military monster, treating her just as he would a barmaid – “What d’ye think your husband says? He says – by Jove – that you’re very well at home, but you don’t do to take abroad – he he he! Now I should say” – continued he, eyeing her intently – “I should say that you’re a devilish better looking woman than he is a man – haw haw haw – ho ho ho!”