Three years ago, I drew your attention to William Hope Hodgson, a strangely compelling writer. To see that post, go to the archive here, and scroll down to February 13th and Breakfast Of Hideousness!
I have just read Hodgsonâ€™s 1909 novel The Ghost Pirates, and though I could witter on about its peculiarities of narration, language, and even punctuation, there is one particular point that struck me and which I wish to share with you. Note that the copy I was reading was a first edition. On page 181 we find this:
The ropes were foul of one another in a regular â€˜bunch oâ€™ buffers.â€™ *
The asterisk alerts us to the following footnote:
* Modified from the original.
What in the name of heaven can this mean? What was the original version of â€˜bunch oâ€™ buffersâ€™? Why was it modified? This being the first edition, â€˜the originalâ€™ must presumably refer to the manuscript. Is it the only change from the manuscript to find its way into the printed book? And why tell us, in any case, given that if we were not told we would never know?
I am both perplexed and inspired by this footnote. My perplexity I have explained, my inspiration is something readers may well encounter at Hooting Yard in the near future â€“ the inexplicable or paradoxical or gratuitous or tangential or bonkers or winsome or wilful footnote.