Is there a name for this literary device?

I’ve read a few books from the late Victorian era through to the 1920s which have an odd literary device where, after the narrator has spent most of the story describing one or two key events, glosses over lots of interesting stuff as if they’re hitting the “fast-forward” button on the story for some reason.

Take Beau Geste as an example - most of the story focuses on the Geste brothers running away to join the French Foreign Legion and some of them getting involved in a planned mutiny at a Saharan fort.

Then, following the resolution of that particular story aspect, several characters embark on a long journey across French West Africa which is handwaved away with something akin to “And a lot of cool stuff happened, but I’m not going to describe it in any detail because it’s really too incredible to go into here. Soooooo, moving right along to the next bit…” which is frustrating because some of it sounded rather interesting, at least as much as some of the stuff covered as part of the “main” plot earlier.

HP Lovecraft, as I recall, would do something similar too - talking about Terrors From Beyond that were far, far too terrifying to describe to mere mortals, but trust him, they were pretty terrifying.

They’re not the only examples, of course - but it does seem to pop up rather a lot in that time period. It’s also a bit jarring and seems to me, as a modern reader, not unlike a James Bond novel consisting of a detailed description of the paperwork 007 has to do as part of his jobs, the complicated political intrigues he must engage in to secure a plum assignment investigating an upmarket and exclusive brothel in Monaco being used as a front for something, then glossing over the entire mission and adventures there to conclude with an exhausted and slightly gunshot wounded Bond returning to his office and finding his expenses claim as been rejected until he goes downstairs and sorts it out with itemised receipts, perhaps a few judicious swear words and maybe some judo throws for good measure.

I’m not including the Sherlock Holmes-style convention of alluding to other adventures the characters have had which aren’t fleshed out (“Why look Watson, a hedgehog not entirely unlike the one who proved to be Moriarty’s undoing in the Mystery of the Ruptured Duck!”) in this question, though, but more focusing on “Cool stuff which the author fast-forwards through”.

So, to get back to the point: is there a (serious) name for the 1880s-1920s literary device where the author spends a lot of time on seemingly irrelevant or not necessarily exciting stuff and then “fast forwards” through potentially interesting or exciting stuff with a handwave/glossy coat of moving right along?

I haven’t the faintest idea what it’s called, but my very favourite example is in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. There’s a fight with a giant octopus that isn’t really described- the reader is advised, by Verne, to go read Victor Hugo on the subject instead.

Not really Victorian, but the “back again” part of The Hobbit, There and Back Again is pretty sparse on details.

I think its called bad writing (or bad, lazy, narrative construction, anyway).

That is true, but it is not like it matters in this case. It does not interrupt the story in any significant way with a fast forward. To all intents, the story is over before Bilbo goes back. The problem is only that the “back again” part is too insignificant a part of the story to deserve such a prominent mention in the title.

Also, of course, “There and Back Again” is not really an alternative title for The Hobbit at all, it is the title of Bilbo’s narrative of his adventure, upon which Tolkien’s novelization is supposedly based. We are free (and perhaps encouraged) to believe that the “There and Back Again” section of The Red Book went into much more detail of the journey back than Tolkien thought it artistically appropriate to include in his re-telling.

So, in Tolkien’s case, it is not bad or lazy narrative construction at all. I think it probably is that in the OP’s examples, though.

TV Tropes calls it Offscreen Moment of Awesome, with plenty of examples where the story skips ahead to the aftermath of a battle, or a speech, or a heist, or whatever.

In T H White’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING (a four-volume retelling of the Arthur legend), he skips the entire Holy Grail search, saying something like, “Mallory has told this as well as can be told and there’s no point repeating it.” I’ve no idea whether there’s a word for it as a literary device, however. I think it does vary – the example cited from THE HOBBIT, but clearly in many other books (TREASURE ISLAND comes to mind) of the return trip after the adventure being described very briefly, that’s just because it would be boring.

That’s a perfect example of the sort of thing I’m talking about. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is (generally) a pretty good story, but I remember thinking to myself “Why are we skipping the epic Giant Octopus Fight???” when I first read the story.

Is that not explained by Barliman when the travellers say they’ve had a peaceful journey and he is not surprised because they’re kitted out as seasoned warriors?

Well they had no hyperlinks then.

The first book I thought of was Frankenstein. The whole “my sadness was too terrible to even try to explain” or “his fear was so powerful, mere words are unable to allow one to understand” card is played frequently. Also, a very small part of the book is spent on Victor actually raiding morgues and cemeteries to get body parts, and assembling (and reviving) the Creature - Shelley basically does a huge hand wave and says “Look, he did lots of science stuff, OK?” Most of the novel is spent with Victor talking about what an unfortunate soul he is as he boats around his lake/rides his horse/takes a long walk. Not saying it’s not great - it’s a powerful read that I enjoyed very much - but if you’re looking for something action packed (as the movies would suggest it is), I’d look elsewhere.

Mainly, I think it might be an effort to preserve the genre of the book. If, thus far, the whole story is about, say, the secret romance of a girl dressed as a man to go to war and one of her fellow soldiers, you’re not going to want to stick the eventual battle scene right in the middle of the book, with all the blood and guts and fighting - so, fast forward to after it happened and girl/guy/whoever is tragically dead. If you prefer action to romance, the whole thing will look stupid, as you’re missing all the good parts. In the case of Frankenstein, it was because Mary Shelley had no real science training, and would not have been able to go into detail, and even with the scarce description, there are still plot holes created (for example, all of the Creature’s parts are found from normal sized corpses, but he somehow comes out nine feet tall).

There are a number of TV Tropes that fit this:

Verne was just skipping the most boring part. A fight with a giant octopus would have me skipping until it was over.

Fight scenes are boring. You always know the outcome before it starts (hint: bet on the protagonist), so there’s nothing but description without a point.

It’s possible that the OP has encountered some works that are on the evolutionary path to 20th century literary fiction. During the 19th century, books could be fun and full of sweeping adventures or fantastic horrors, and yet still count as high literature. Entering the 20th century, books which wanted to be taken seriously had to bypass any material that would actually be entertaining.

As the idea took claw on the minds of authors, perhaps they took to throwing out any material that they thought would detract from the serious/literary tone of their work?

This seems like a fair point to me. Undeniably (after all), the novel has evolved over time.

Another thing that occurs to me in connection with the works mentioned in the OP: that some of the events that were mentioned instead of being shown in full-blown scenes would have been the type of material that would have attracted the attention of censors (official or otherwise). Writing out the scenes in full might have cost the writer his publisher, or at least his good reviews.

If the reader can be titillated by a mere mention of events that concern violence or sex, without the writer incurring the risk of the book being banned (or shunned in Polite Society), then all the better for the sales (and reputation) of Ye Olde 19th Century Author.

Wait, I think you’re describing two different devices here, one where part of the action is sped through to keep the story moving, and one where the narrative voice says, “This thing is beyond my power to describe in words but its emotional/impact is X,” and/or “This other writer describes it better than I ever could, see this reference.”

It’s hard to respond without knowing the books you’re referencing better. In Lovecraft’s case, he was a believer in using suggestion and inference to build suspense; the whole “horrors too intense to relate” bit is his way of making you use your imagination to scare yourself, basically. As for Beau Geste, I saw the Gary Cooper film but never read the book. I’d guess that the journey across West Africa, while it may have been diverting, didn’t relate to the overall arc of the story and so it was glossed over. A writer nowadays would just cut directly to the new time and place; back then, writers tended to hold their readers’ hand a bit more.

Possibly, but it’s still jarring and it’s not something you see in modern books for the most part.

Or, how about this French author (translated from Latin):

My favorite use of this device was in the book (not the movie, sadly) of The Princess Bride. Buttercup and Westly have finally admitted their love for one another and Westley sets out to seek his fortune before they marry. Then the narrator says “And what with one thing or another, seven years passed” or something to that effect.