Jonathan Strange : How Is Lady Pole?

Mr Norrell finds success as the only magician in England by casting a spell on the English fleet to make them appear to be more than they are. An illusion made from rainwater.Another one of the fine special effects from the book.

Mr. Segundus stumbles across Mr. Strange while buying what he believes to be an abandoned house. After hearing Mr. Strange’s story and meeting his wife Arabella, He introduces him to Mr Norrell. After realizing that Mr. Strange has a natural affinity to perform magic, even going so far as to create his own spells, Mr. Norrell, delighted by this, accepts him as his apprentice.

Lady Pole is not well. She keeps spouting gibberish at guests of the house and seems unusually fatigued for a woman who does little all day but sit. It turns out that she is tired because every night, she visits the castle of the Fairy King and  is forced to dance all evening at one of the interminable Balls.When he said he would take half her life, he never told Mr. Norrell which half. The half when she is asleep. This is entirely in keeping with fairies, who care little for human stamina and sometimes even less for consent.

This particular story doesn’t have the Tinkerbell like fairies , but the old school fairies, who were sometimes pretty malicious and bloodthirsty.


The ballroom of the Fairy King is another delightful image from the book, although it’s not as I imagined it. It’s full of some  rather scary looking humanoid fairies but I do wonder if all of them are there of their own free will, as Stephen and Lady Pole don’t seem to be.


When Mr. Norrell is called in to cure her, he tells her husband that magic cannot cure madness, as everyone begins to believe that Lady Pole is insane, but Lady Pole simply can’t speak of what’s happening to her because the Fairy King has placed a geas on her. She keeps trying to tell anyone who will listen so they can stop it but only speaks nonsense. Since Mr. Strange knows that it is actually the Fairy King’s fault that she seems mad, they argue and Mr. Norrell subsequently banishes the Fairy King from his house.


Unfortunately, he cannot permanently ban the King from anywhere. Having summoned him once, the King is free to come and go as he pleases, as we find when Stephen Black, Lady Pole’s Houseman, is also suborned into dancing every night by the Fairy King, who seems to have taken a great liking to him. Once again,questions of consent ensue.


When Mr. Strange argues that they should use the services of the Fairy King, Mr. Norrell argues against it.

Mr Norrell,having been tasked by the War Ministry to protect England against French invasion, puts barriers in place on the sea but it goes awry when the barrier half sinks one of their own ships just off the shore.

Mr Strange with his powerful, natural affinity for Magic creates a shoal of horses out of sand to right the sunken ship. Mr Norrell begins to realize exactly how powerful Mr Strange is and that the man is truly his rival.


Essentially what we have are  two different ways of studying magic and how to teach a student more powerful than the teacher, but who lacks discipline.Mr. Strange is a natural magician. He is highly intuitive and  can simply make up magical spells. He can perform them too, but since he lacks discipline, it’s impossible for him to articulate or sometimes even reproduce, exactly what  he did. Mr. Norrell is an intellectual magician. He is a man mostly lacking in imagination but gets most of his ability to do magic, not just from a natural affinity, which he also has, but also from books. The reason the Society of Magic, which Mr. Norrell had disbanded, couldn’t perform any magic, is because they were theoretical magicians, who didn’t actually believe in magic at all or that it could be done.

Impressed by Mr. Strange’s abilities, the War Ministry offers to send him to South America to tend their affairs there but Mr. Norrell protests. Later Mr. Childress convinces him to relent, after telling him that Mr. Strange’s departure would make him the only magician in England.

After Mr. Strange’s  departure Mr Norrell attends an auction of magical books he hopes to get for himself. Arabella Strange, Jonathan, strange’s wife, tries to outbid him to get the books for her husband, with the help of the Fairy king, who has become very interested in her, but she fails.


This does not bode well for Arabella because whenever the Fairy King takes a liking to someone he simply steals them to dance at his parties every night and I think Arabellea might better put on her dancing shoes.

3 thoughts on “Jonathan Strange : How Is Lady Pole?

    1. Yes!
      I had to read it once for the plot and story and then I started again at the beginning just to read all the footnotes, which is almost like reading a second book.
      I don’t normally read those types of books but I thought the writing style was very charming and fun. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a Jane Austen fan.

      I try to steer clear of comparing the show and the book because I have very clear images of what happened in the book and don’t want to get confused with the images from the series, which are very strong, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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