Miriam’s thoughts re: Reade visit
The Reade notecards weren’t exactly what I expected. After our discussions and readings about his thorough methods, about how he wanted the notecards to serve as proof or evidence that what he had written was based in fact, I was surprised by the extent to which many of his notecards were not cited. I was primarily looking at notecards focusing on character and dialogue, and many of these just contained long lists of possible lines of dialogue, but none of these were cited. None of them contained evidence of where he found that dialogue or how he came up with it, or that the dialogue represented how people actually spoke. I cross-referenced some of the potential lines of dialogue with the text of Hard Cash itself, using the find command in a Project Gutenberg version of the text, not with a whole line of dialogue but with key words found within the line, and I was surprised by how few of these lines on the notecard were actually in the text. Where did the dialogue that actually made it into the novel come from, then?
I was also interested in Reade’s use of slang and jargon, since Mrs. Dodd was so virulently against jargon, but a number of the characters spoke in heavy slang. The only clue I found to how Reade devised his slang-based lines of dialogue were references to dictionaries of slang. But an online version of the dictionary of Americanisms he cited, for instance, showed that the dictionary did not involve details on, for instance, how common each word was, and the dictionary went on for hundreds of pages. Did Reade just pick slang words at random, or did he actually listen to how Americans spoke? If he wanted his notecards to serve as proof, why didn’t he write on them where his dialogue was coming from?
I’m still interested to learn more about the development of Vespasian. Unlike other characters, who had notecards dedicated to their dialogue and their personalities, Vespasian (and Ramgolam) were not mentioned in any of the notecards I could find. I looked as well at Reade’s notebook on race, but it was almost empty; there were a few pages on incidents of “negrocide” Reade had read about and some development of a character for a different book, and a single line of dialogue that made it into Hard Cash slightly altered. However, there was nothing to answer my questions as to what made Reade thing that Vespasian and Ramgolam would have spoken as they did, behaved as they did, thought as they did. I’m not claiming that Reade did not do research on this, but just that I haven’t seen the evidence of such research.
I mentioned earlier a bit of what my process was in looking at these cards, which was to cross-reference what I found with online editions of the text. As far as note-taking, for me this mainly consisted of taking numerous cell phone pictures and writing down questions that occurred to me as I was looking at the notes and what I discovered in cross-referencing the notecards with the text (not much!).