Beautiful People - Huw Daggerman


“You have a sir’s way about your speech. Art handy with a weapon?”
“Oh, fair to middling, my lord, but I can take a blow.”
Plenilune

 I had forecasted the secondary character Huw Daggerman since ages past and, like most characters I have not yet written, he had a vague but sensible appearance and a touch of personality.  I had some misgivings: what is his purpose, where is he from, why am I allowing this character to brutally shoulder his way into my story at all?  I already knew his vocation and what work I would put him to later, but the fact remained that he was just a secondary - almost a tertiary - character.  I should probably resist allowing him in.  But the damage is done (for better or worse, probably worse) and I'm not altogether keen on the notion that all characters have to have a clear purpose in the plot: life itself isn't that way, and the characters who move even on the outskirts of the plot have just as weighty an importance of being as the characters in the foreground.  So I let him come on.

Unfortunately, the moment I began to write him (which was only a few days ago), he ditched the vague impression I had of him and made a lunge for the spot-light.  In my head, at the back where it is grey and gloomy and full of cobwebs, he was a middle-aged, rough-and-tumble man with a short, bulky figure and a profession of taking things which weren't his.  He kept the profession, but as I began to write him I found my fingers obedient to another image: still middle-aged, a spry and healthy forty or so, dark hair that has long since begun to grey, with a rough but pleasant face that prefers being amiable but has had a hard life.  His originally caustic undertones became tinged with a sense of self-sufficiency and pride, his face (before a little unlovely) became both assured of its relative desirability and genuinely friendly.  (I find the latter trait incongruous because he is not fond of people, but then the human soul is amply capable of incongruities.)  His ego, turning out to be much bigger than I had anticipated, is proving difficult to shove into the backdrop.  As my husband remarked dryly, "Plenilune is full of show-stealers."

How these men were defined by their glories and their insults! 

Where is he from? 
You know, I actually don’t know.  I suppose if I troubled to ask him he could tell me, but the man is anything but landed and he moves about so much that having an origin has never struck him as being important.  He finds people’s pride in their countries an interesting phenomenon, but not one that he shares or wants to share.  It makes life inconvenient sometimes.


Does he have a life verse?  If so, what is it?
 There is an old nursery rhyme—so old it is almost universal—a bit of which goes:

Pipe clean away the azure blood,
Pipe away the fame;
Pipe away the laddie’s youth
And the beauty of the dame.
Pipe to the old macabre dance—
It’s all a-one to me.
Birth is had with a hefty price
But death we have for free.

How did he do in school, and what sort of education did he have?
 “He is the natural son of NObody knows who—”  He never really attended school.  Between the ages of nine and ten he was put in a country school where he got a rough acquaintance with his letters, but that spurted and fizzled out quickly and he never progressed beyond that.  He is by no means a dullard, however: he is a fast learner and a very keen student of anthropology and the human condition.  His natural disposition runs readily in the direction of pleases and thank-yous, but experience (oftentimes a pessimistic teacher) has given him a cynical side which has kept his neck out of the hemp halter yet.

Does he have an accent?
 What his native accent might be, I don’t know.  Typically among the lower classes the brogues are thick with thees and thous, ests and eths, but Huw Daggerman (in his free-from-the-schoolhouse way) has risen above that and speaks in a very clear, autocratic language.  He may or may not have cheated the hangman of the boots he is wearing, but he strikes you on first acquaintance as being a well-bred (if poor and unfortunate) gentleman.

Is he more introspective or does he talk aloud?
 Neither.  He does tend to internalize, as he does not have any friends to which he can open up, but he can also be very impulsive: a defect he is trying to remedy and could also be checked by a possession of friends.  The two things he is clear on are that life is very harsh and empty and never keeps its promises (unless that promise is an assurance to let you down) and the fact that he is, to be honest, very lonely.

But you wouldn’t guess it for his smile.

Has he ever been in love?
 That depends on your definition of love.  Let us say that the man gets around, as it were, and that his morals are perhaps not as rigid as those of other characters in Plenilune.

What would his reaction be if he discovered he was dying?
 It is a combination of extreme fear—because he has been running two steps ahead of death all his life and it is always breathing coldly down his neck—and resignation—because he has seen humanity fight with death and always lose.  He is not nihilistic.  He does believe there is something beyond death, but judging from people’s innate fear to approach death and whatever lies beyond it, he has concluded that it is a dreadful and inevitable evil and one can only square one’s shoulders like a man and hope to “whatever gods there be” that one’s lip does not tremble at the last moment.

Does he have simple pleasures or does he have elaborate dreams for the future?
 For what he does, Huw is very sanguine about living a simple life, as comfortable as is necessary; he is quite of the school of thought which admits that you can’t take it with you, but he also doesn’t buy into the notion that we should eat, drink, and be merry, for it is as bad for the mind, in his opinion, as unhealthy living is bad for the blood. 

Describe this character in three words.
 Attractive.  Amiable.  Agnostic.

8 ripostes:

  1. Sounds like an amiable chap if it weren't so sad he was Agnostic. Sounds like pleasant enough to meet perhaps?

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  2. Wow. He actually reminds me a little of Nicholas Higgins in North and South...am I right at all? I like Huw. Honestly...I love all of your side-character, Jenny!

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  3. Sounds like a truly fascinating man. 'tis marvelous, is it not, how those show-stealers worm their way into the story when you're not looking, and then absolutely refuse to leave! ;)

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  4. Huh me too Rachel! I thought of Nicholas too!

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  5. I am only acquainted with the Nicholas Higgins of the film production, not from the book, so I have to say that that image does not match up with Huw's appearance and character. Rather quite the opposite, I think... But I don't know how Gaskell wrote him originally so, for all I know, you may be drawing an accurate comparison.

    It makes me laugh so hard that all you girls like Huw. He has that effect on women...

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  6. I have to agree with the general concencus: he does remind me of Nicholas Higgins! But only in appearances. Nicholas would never steal or the like: he has his morals straight. Huw, on the other hand...
    I think that's why I like him. For some reason, I always enjoy the adventurous tales of not-quite-good characters. And the bad guys, of course. XD

    blessings,
    ~bree

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  7. It is always the side characters one must watch out for. I've had many try to jump into the spot light and had to fight them back. They just have this mystery and intrigue about them which makes them appealing. He seems of a very interesting sort, and now I wish to know more about him. (See, another example of how sneaky they are. Now he will try and win all your readers to his side.)

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  8. *clapclapclapclapclap*
    That was my applause at your not-so-sneaky insertion of an Emma quote. Brava, bravissima!
    And I was thinking of Nicholas Higgins too-- but from the book, not the movie. He really is quite different in the book, IMHO. I think you'd enjoy the book, Jenny!

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