Chapters

Chapter 20 Chapter 20 Full of disquietude and misgiving the Surgeon left the cabin. Was Captain Vere suddenly affected in his mind, or was it but a transient excitement, brought about by so strange a extraordinary aso strange aso strange a] In his initial rough drafting, entirely in pencil, HM wrote "so extraordinary a tragedy," but returned to the site to make a series of revisions in pencil, probably to eliminate the repetition in "so extraordinary a case" several lines later. Again in pencil, he deleted "extraordinary," and above the base line, he inserted then deleted "unusual," and next to it he then inserted and deleted "unexpected." In front of these two deleted insertions, he then inscribed "strange a." However, at some point in this process, he restored "extraordinary," without deleting "strange a," resulting in the uncompleted and oscillating revision "so strange a extraordinary a." The HS and NN editions take the "a" after "strange" to be an ampersand, which yields the reading "so strange and extraordinary a tragedy." But the inscription they call an ampersand does not resemble HM's actual ampersand in the following leaf and elsewhere. Acknowledging HM's initial intention to eliminate the repetition of "extraordinary," MEL emends by selecting the "so strange a tragedy" option. tragedy? As to the drum-head court, it struck the Surgeon as impolitic, if nothing more. The thing to do, he thought, was to place Billy Budd in confinement and in a way dictated by usage, and postpone further action in so extraordinary a case, to such time as they should rejoin the squadron, and then refer it to the Admiral. He recalled the unwonted agitation of Captain Vere and his excited exclamations so at variance with his normal manner. Was he unhinged? But assuming that he is, it is not so susceptible of proof (no period in MS)proof. What then can hehe] The leaf on which this text appears is inscribed entirely in pencil, indicating that HM was composing a first, rough draft of this paragraph and indeed the entire short chapter in which it appears. HM's wobbly sentence structure here shows the roughness of his draft: the paragraph begins with a dangling modifier, and the two instances of the pronoun "he" have different antecedents. At issue is the Surgeon's suspicion that Vere is "unhinged," but without proof, he wonders what he can do. HM's first version of the sentence reads: "But much as he demurred, what could the surgeon do?" HM then deleted most of this sentence, expanding it to "But assuming that he is [unhinged], it is not so susceptible of proof. What then can he do?" HM did not tinker further to correct his dangler or to distinguish the second "he" (the Surgeon) from the first (Vere). Drawing upon HM's initial inscription, NN emends the second "he" to "the Surgeon." Arguing that HM's meaning is clear from the context, MEL does not emend and retains the second "he." do? No more trying situation is conceivable than that of an officer subordinate under a Captain whom he suspects to be, not mad indeed, but yet not quite unaffected in his intellects. To argue his order to him would be insolence. To resist him would be mutiny. In obedience to Captain Vere, he communicated what had happened to the lieutenants &and captain of marines; saying nothing as to the Captain's state. They fully shared his own surprise and concern. Like him too they seemed to think that such a matter should be referred to the Admiral.