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‘Is that really how you want to describe your groom?’ Literature professor questions passage describing Jay Gatsby as ‘uncouth and from the wrong side of the tracks’ that reminded Eugenie of her husband
- Princess Beatrice read passage about Jay Gatsby’s smile in The Great Gatsby
- Sister Eugenie chose passage because it made her think of Jack Brooksbank
- Professor Sarah Churchwell said passage described Jay Gatsby as a rough neck
- She was ‘surprised’ by choice because the book describes him as a fraud too
A professor of American literature has questioned the passage read at Princess Eugenie’s wedding describing a character as being ‘from the wrong side of the tracks’.
Princess Beatrice read the excerpt from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic The Great Gatsby at the wedding of her sister Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on Friday.
Eugenie said she was ‘immediately’ drawn to the passage describing Jay Gatsby’s smile when she first read the Jazz Age novel shortly after meeting Jack eight years ago.
But Professor Sarah Churchwell, from the University of London, said she was ‘surprised’ by the choice of passage because it goes on to describe Gatsby as an ‘elegant rough neck’ whose style of speech is ‘almost absurd’.
The passage read by Princess Beatrice at the wedding of her sister Eugenie on Friday (pictured at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle) described Jay Gatsby’s smile as having ‘a quality of eternal reassurance’ – but the choice of reading has raised eyebrows
The passage goes on to describe Gatsby as a ‘rough neck’ and a fraud whose style of speech is ‘almost absurd’ (pictured: Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, 2013)
Jack Brooksbank, who is European ambassador for Casamigos tequila, tied the knot with Princess Eugenie on Friday (the couple are pictured at their evening wedding reception at The Royal Lodge, Windsor)
The extract, said to capture both the theatrical quality of Gatsby’s character and his charisma, reminded Eugenie of tequila salesman Brooksbank according to Reverend Philip Bromiley.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, Professor Churchwell said: ‘I have to say I was surprised that they would choose this passage.
‘I mean Fitzgerald is an extremely beautiful writer, that’s not news to anyone who knows his work and so you can see why you would be drawn on to this lovely passage about a wonderful smile.
‘The problem is with what happens at the end of the passage when his smile disappears, and what the passage says is that when his smile disappears.
‘The narrator Nick Carraway says: “I was looking at an elegant young rough neck, a year or two over 30, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.”
‘And what he’s saying is that this is the smile of a conman, who’s insinuating his way into, or trying to insinuate, his way into the upper crust, and he’s actually a rough neck.
‘Now I understand from conversations I had yesterday that that’s maybe not as well known a slang term in Britain as it is in the US. But I mean it’s pretty clear that it’s not flattering, it’s an insult.
Professor Sarah Churchwell said of the passage, read by Princess Beatrice (pictured): ‘So it’s saying he’s a fraud but he’s got a beautiful smile and you think gosh is that really how you want to describe your groom on your wedding day?’
A professor of American literature has questioned the choice of passage from The Great Gatsby that was read by Princess Beatrice at the royal wedding yesterday (pictured: Beatrice and the Duchess of York waving to onlookers on the steps of St. George’s Chapel)
‘It’s saying that he’s uncouth, and that he’s from the wrong side of the tracks and that he’s vulgar and very possibly dodgy and thuggish, which is also what rough neck means.’
She added: ‘I could totally see it as pulling the smile quotation thoroughly out of context and just letting it be a beautiful description of a smile.
‘But to continue the passage, which is about this guy trying to insinuate his way into American aristocracy, and he’s a fraud.
‘So it’s saying he’s a fraud but he’s got a beautiful smile and you think, gosh is that really how you want to describe your groom on your wedding day?’
Reverend Philip Bromiley, who conducted the wedding ceremony, argued that the passage deserved to be taken out of context because it was so beautiful.
The full reading from The Great Gatsby
‘He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.
‘It faced – or seemed to face – the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour.
‘It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
‘Precisely at that point it vanished – and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.
‘Some time before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.’
Princess Eugenie stands at the altar with Jack Brooksbank during the ceremony of their wedding at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor on Friday
Here comes the bride: Eugenie (left) looks elated as she arrives at the chapel and is then escorted down the aisle (right)
Later on in the service, the Dean of Windsor drew on the passage once again for his sermon, saying: ‘It was soon after she and Jack had first met that Princess Eugenie read The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.
‘One particular passage in which Jay Gatsby is described reminded her immediately of Jack. She decided that she wanted eventually to let Jack know how much those words had brought him to mind. That is why they have had a special place (as the second reading) in today’s wedding service.
‘The words that particularly reminded her of Jack concern Gatsby’s smile. As we heard from the reading: ‘It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it… It concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour’.
‘In doing so, they understand that marriage is something far more profound than any kind of “contract”, as we usually understand it.
Radiant smile: Eugenie just can’t stop smiling as she is walked down the aisle by her father, the Duke of York
The Duke of York walks his daughter Princess Eugenie down the aisle for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle
The happy couple: Jack and Eugenie have wide smiles as they exchange rings during the ceremony at St George’s chapel
The royals: Jack and Eugenie can been seen at the top of the altar while the rest of the royals including the Queen and Prince Charles sit behind them
The look of love: Eugenie looks over to Jack during the ceremony at St George’s chapel. Jack looks ahead
Jack Brooksbank put the wedding ring on his bride Princess Eugenie’s finger as they married today
‘There are no conditions here; no limits. They offer each other an unqualified promise to be there for each other come what may. It is the unqualified nature of the promise that generates a feeling of security, the gift of “eternal reassurance”.
‘Well, a few years have passed, and Eugenie and Jack come here today to smile on each other, and to offer each other something like “eternal reassurance” and the promise of an ‘irresistible prejudice’ in each other’s favour.’
The other reading was taken from St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians chapter three, and was read by Jack’s paternal cousin, Charles Brooksbank.
Other recitals included A Gaelic Blessing by the choir and the hymn Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.
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Professor of American literature questions Princess Eugenie's choice of The Great Gatsby passage