Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 15

The Sleeper Awakes.  It’s 1890s England when an insomniac falls into a sleep-like trance and awakes 203 years later to find he is the Master of the World.  But while he had been sleeping, the masses had been oppressed, and they now find he has awoken and hope he will rescue them.  One hundred and ten pages into this 220-page H.G. Wells novel, the sleeper, Graham, decides to reveal himself to the multitudes of people waiting:

“Will you let them see you, Sire? said Ostrog.  “They are very anxious to see you.”

Graham hesitated, and then walked forward to where the broken verge of wall dropped sheer. He stood looking down, a lonely, tall, black figure against the sky.

Very slowly the swarming ruins became aware of him.  And as they did so little bands of black-uniformed men appeared remotely, thrusting through the crowds towards the Council House.  He saw little black heads become pink, looking at him, saw by that means a wave of recognition sweep across the space.


54 great opening lines: 26

The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand.

The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells


Yesterday I posted the opening line of Invisible Man (sans article) by Ralph Ellison, published in 1952, a book I confused with The Invisible Man (avec article) from 1897 which I listened to on a long car trip recently.  I found the latter interesting in the first half, but more and more disturbing as the protagonist attempted to violently and invisibly dominate his world.

Wells’s writing is awesome;  look at the words he chose to help us imagine guns and glass:

A resounding smash of glass came from upstairs. Adye had a silvery glimpse of a little revolver half out of Kemp’s pocket. “It’s a window, upstairs!” said Kemp, and led the way up. There came a second smash while they were still on the staircase. When they reached the study they found two of the three windows smashed, half the room littered with splintered glass, and one big flint lying on the writing table. The two men stopped in the doorway, contemplating the wreckage. Kemp swore again, and as he did so the third window went with a snap like a pistol, hung starred for a moment, and collapsed in jagged, shivering triangles into the room.