'As for an end,' said Martin, 'are endings really so very important? Sterne did quite well without one; and often an unfinished picture is all the more interesting for the bare canvas. I remember Bourville's definition of a novel as a work in which life flows in abundance, swirling without a pause: or as you might say without an end, an organized end. And there is a least one Mozart quartet that stops without the slightest ceremony: most satisfying when you get used to it.'
Stephen said, 'There is another Frenchman whose name escapes me but who is even more to the point: La bêtise c'est de vouloir conclure. The conventional ending, with virtue rewarded and loose ends tied up is often sadly chilling; and its platitude and falsity tend to infect what has gone before, however excellent. Many books would be far better without their last chapter, or at least with no more than a brief, cool, unemotional statement of the outcome.'
'Do you really think so?' asked Paulton, looking from one to the other. 'I am very willing to believe you, particularly as the tale has reached a point where... Nathaniel, may I beg you to read it? If it really will do without any beating of drums, or if you could suggest the first notes of the true closing passage, how happy I should be! I could escape from this cruel, desolate, corrupt and corrupting place.'
'I should like to read it very much,' said Martin. 'I have always liked your pieces.'
--Patrick O'Brian, The Nutmeg of Consolation, p. 301
What a lovely peek under the hood this is--the moreso in that it's only the second such fourth-wall passage I recall in fourteen books of the Aubreyad. (The first such is also earlier in Nutmeg and consists of Stephen extolling the virtues of the novel as character study, for which potential, he says, it excels any other form.) Unlike Dorothy Sayers, who uses her mystery novels peopled with genre-savvy mystery writers to play racketball off the fourth wall, Patrick O'Brian keeps it close to his chest. Except here.
I did intend to quote less than the entire page, but it's hard to pick and choose from abundance swirling without a pause.