Tell Us One of Your Famous Stories: ‘Twas a Dark and Fearsome Night

Antonio? Canfield and Carlton? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Experimental fiction and metafiction became influential in literary circles during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, I recall a playful story from the beginning of the twentieth century that used recursion. A character named Antonio presented a comically nested tale to a group of brigands. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: A good example of this convoluted narrative appeared in “The Buffalo Times” of New York in March 1900. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

‘Twas a dark and fearsome night. Brigands great and brigands small were gathered around the camp fire. “Come, Antonio,” they called to the terrible chief, “tell us one of your famous stories.” And Antonio arose and said:

“‘Twas a dark and fearsome night. Brigands great and brigands small were gathered around the camp fire. ‘Come, Antonio,’ they called to the terrible chief, ‘Tell us one of your famous stories.’ And Antonio arose and said:

“‘Twas a dark and fearsome,” etc., etc., indefinitely.

There is strong evidence that this metafictional tale was already circulating a few months earlier. The following excerpt appeared in the “Buffalo Evening News” of New York in January 1900. The tale was referenced, but it was not fully explicated: 2

And then, possibly Gen. White, like Antonio, may be seated round the fire with brigands great and brigands small, and may tell us of one of his fa-a-a-mous victories.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Tell Us One of Your Famous Stories: ‘Twas a Dark and Fearsome Night

Notes:

  1. 1900 March 19, The Buffalo Times, Hazel Machine Is Knocking It: Source of the Opposition to the Mayor’s Harbor Commission, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1900 January 8, Buffalo Evening News, The Lion’s Part, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)