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THE DEEP ONES: "The Mezzotint" by M.R. James

The Weird Tradition

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Edited: Apr 29, 2017, 12:56pm Top

I believe this is in my copy of The Ghost Stories of M.R. James but will confirm this weekend at home.

CORRECTION: The Book of Ghost Stories, that is. It's not the full omnibus so unclear which stories are included.

CORRECTION OF MY CORRECTION: So actually, it's in my copy of A Warning to the Curious. The Book of Ghost Stories has others including a lecture or two, but not "The Mezzotint".

Apr 28, 2017, 2:24pm Top

I originally read this one in Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories, but I'll probably re-read online.

Apr 28, 2017, 2:40pm Top

Apr 29, 2017, 5:34pm Top

The recent Oxford University Press edition of Collected Ghost Stories (the one that was reprinted in paperback as an Oxford World's Classic) for me.

May 3, 2017, 1:46pm Top

I've read this at least once before, possibly more than once. It's a great example of James for me, and what I like about his stories. They are indulgent and fun in a similar way that Golden Age detective stories often are described by aficianados -- for the language, the academic British settings, the dry humour. The same relish for watching someone come to a grisly end, deserved or not.

But I also like how the story goes somewhere I wasn't quite expecting (remembering), even after the basic premise is revealed. Yes, it's clear the mezzotint will show something sinister, and it's soon clear it's animated. This is, perhaps, easy for us to overlook in its potential for causing the reader unease and even horror, so accustomed are we to moving pictures on tablets and film and such. But two things happen that were not predictable for me:

First, that the figure brings back a baby. Forget the description that it's unclear whether the baby is alive or not. Just reading it was carrying an infant was enough to give me goosebumps. I wasn't expecting that part.

Second, that the mezzotint apparently showed that one scene, and then ... stopped. For whatever reason, that is spookier for me than the idea it would show a live picture eternally. Maybe because in this way, it's so different from the ubiquitous CCTV or tablet images of today.

May 3, 2017, 1:53pm Top

James makes me laugh!
tea was taken to the accompaniment of a discussion which golfing persons can imagine for themselves, but which the conscientious writer has no right to inflict upon any non-golfing persons. ... But those who are familiar with University life can picture for themselves the wide and delightful range of subjects over which the conversation of two Fellows of Canterbury College is likely to extend during a Sunday morning breakfast. Hardly a topic was left unchallenged, from golf to lawn-tennis.

Edited: May 3, 2017, 2:03pm Top

"the Phasmatological Society" is presumably a riff on the Society for Psychical Research.

ETA: And "Sadducean Professor of Ophiology" is just too much!

Edited: May 3, 2017, 2:15pm Top

I laughed at each of those, myself, and wondered further if there was a specific target for "Sadducean Professor of Ophiology".

I am not familiar enough with Sadducees to come up with anything on my own, and found this reference a useful primer. But homophonetically I wondered if he was simply punning on the Caduceus.

ETA but now I see the Biblical verse Matthew 3:7 citing Sadducees includes the line "generation of vipers", and that probably accounts for it.

May 3, 2017, 2:25pm Top

That a child is in danger elevates the feeling of dread, but so does the figure doing the kidnapping, "crawling on all-fours towards the house, and it was muffled in a strange black garment with a white cross on the back.." Is James hinting that it is not quite human? And what about that cross?

I now know that "sympathetic ink" is disappearing ink, but what exactly is a "skip"? A servant, more or less?

Edited: May 3, 2017, 2:32pm Top

>11 KentonSem:

Apparently a housekeeper, at Trinity College.

I did like the detail James provides, like the cross and crawling on all fours (but then returning upright, with the child in arms). Is there something specific meant? Or just something to give us the willies?

Edited: May 3, 2017, 3:02pm Top

Darryl Jones has some helpful notes in the OUP edition of Collected Ghost Stories:

for "Skip" - "a college servant. Technically, in Oxford, Robert Filcher would have been Mr Williams's scout; in Cambridge, his gyp; and only in Trinity College Dublin, his skip."

(Edited to remove unwanted extra word).

Edited: May 3, 2017, 2:50pm Top

>12 elenchus:, >13 housefulofpaper:

Thanks for the clarification. Each type no doubt has his own unique capabilities. :-)

On the figure, it's not merely a black coat, but a "strange black garment" with that white cross. I wonder if James was alluding to a particular profession or group. A band of robbers? A priest's robe? Something more occult? Maybe just something to give us the willies, as elenchus says.

May 3, 2017, 3:01pm Top

>12 elenchus:

I understood the passage "but not this time crawling cautiously on hands and knees. Now it was erect and stepping swiftly, with long strides" to indicate Gawdy was creeping towards the house to make sure he couldn't be seen, but abandoning caution once he had stolen the child and heading away from the house with all speed.

I'd assumed the cross indicated that Gawdy was wearing a shroud, but admittedly I couldn't find any evidence for this custom (it was only a brief online search, however).

For "Sadducean Professor of Ophiology" Darryl Jones notes "MRJ's coinage, meaning "Professor of Serpents". The Sadducees were a priestly Jewish caste 'which say that there is no resurrection' (Matthew 22:23), and who believed in 'neither angel nor spirit' (Acts 23:8)"...the rest of the note cites the Biblical reference already noted by elenchus in >10 elenchus:. This is a little sharp for James, and I think genuinely shows his really very conservative views on religion, and what it's proper for Academe to investigate.

Edited: May 3, 2017, 3:07pm Top

>15 housefulofpaper: I'd assumed the cross indicated that Gawdy was wearing a shroud

I made a similarly brief online search, and also couldn't confirm. Turned up some mighty interesting Victorian burial customs, though. None of them touched on what someone who was hanged typically would be buried in, however.

May 3, 2017, 3:23pm Top

>16 elenchus:

Just a thought - if he was buried in unconsecrated ground, perhaps a friend or well-wisher tried to help him, in some way, by painting a cross on his shroud/grave-clothes?

I wonder if there's a parallel in 19th century literature?

May 3, 2017, 3:26pm Top

>16 elenchus:

You don't want Victorian burial customs for this story: the scene of the picture is circa 1802, so Regency era will be a better match.

Edited: May 3, 2017, 3:44pm Top

It could be argued the key to the story are a few lines by Nisbet, lines which didn't particularly affect me when first reading them:

But, you know, it looks very much as if we were assisting at the working out of a tragedy somewhere. The question is, Has it happened already, or is it going to come off? You must find out what the place is. (Emphasis mine)

Other aspects of the story were creepy, these are sort of interesting but not terribly chilling. Anyone have ideas about these? Clearly other people (at minimun the London dealer Britnell) had seen the moving image, so it's not like Williams was the first to see it and set off some episode. And yet, the scene stops after this group of dons views the image, and Nisbet makes the observation above.

It goes along with the idea of an academic stumbling into something grisly and beyond his power to control. Perhaps that's all there is to it. And James makes the reference to Dennistoun from "Canon Albaric's Scrap-Book", so it's clear he's riffing on a successful theme.

May 3, 2017, 3:45pm Top

>18 paradoxosalpha:

Ah, right! I didn't search specifically for Victorian shrouds, but they are what came up in my generic search. I didn't mark they would have been inappropriate, though.

May 3, 2017, 5:58pm Top

>21 housefulofpaper:

I've read this story several times over the past 20+ years (I've worked out that it was 1994 when I first got a cheap copy of the Collected Ghost Stories).

It's an early story and clearly aimed at his audience in King's College, with its gentle digs at a lightly disguised Oxford ("Bridgeford") and its institutions. As noted it's quite gentle until the tragedy is fully disclosed at the end (although the Golden Age detective stories elenchus made comparison with could also be surprisingly blunt about the crimes that drive their plots).

That said, the idea of the changing mezzotint image is a creepy and memorable idea (mezzotints themselves can be startlingly realistic when compared to earlier engraving styles. Living near London has enabled me to view one or two exhibitions of engravings held at the British Museum).

>19 elenchus:

I don't know, this might have been a one-off. At the end of the story, it's reported that "Mr Britnell knew nothing of it save that he was sure it {the mezzotint} was uncommon". Possibly the fact that the college owns land adjoining Anningley Hall could be a reason for the revelation to being to play out?

May 3, 2017, 9:12pm Top

I also found this creepy and memorable. Particularly >7 elenchus: the indeterminate state of the baby.

>8 paradoxosalpha: That was also one of my favorite bits.

As for the garment, I thought of the Knights Hospitaller which wore black garbs with a white cross (though on the front), but there's no indication James had them in mind.

Joshi's notes state this story has two supernatural mysteries. The obvious haunted mezzotint and the possibility that Gawdry is making his kidnapping post-mortem.

Edited: May 4, 2017, 11:13am Top

More speculation on the garment, here's an eyewitness description of how a hanged body was kitted out after execution:

There is no other form of execution but hanging; it is thought that the taking of life is sufficient punishment for any crime without worse torture. After hanging murderers are, however, punished in a particular fashion. They are first hung on the common gibbet, their bodies are then covered with tallow and fat substances, over this is placed a tarred shirt fastened down with iron bands, and the bodies are hung with chains to the gibbet, which is erected on the spot, or as near as possible to the place, where the crime was committed, and there it hangs till it falls to dust. This is what is called in this country to 'hang in chains'."

So this doesn't settle the question, since Gawdy wasn't hung in chains but was buried in the appropriate section of the churchyard, "on the north side of the church—you know the way in that part of the world: anyone that's been hanged or made away with themselves, they bury them that side."

Finally, I just realised on re-reading that James suggests the mezzotint was itself created by the child's father, Anningly Hall's owner:

The father, Mr. Arthur Francis, was locally known as a talented amateur engraver in mezzotint. After his son's disappearance he lived in complete retirement at the Hall, and was found dead in his studio on the third anniversary of the disaster, having just completed an engraving of the house, impressions of which are of considerable rarity.'

Did Francis knowingly create the mezzotint as a way to document Gawdy's crime of infanticide? But I don't see how.

May 4, 2017, 11:20am Top

A related idea: It could be the ghost of Francis animating the mezzotint with the images of the supernatural visitation that he believed himself to have suffered (i.e. Gawdy abducting the child).

Edited: May 4, 2017, 11:54am Top

That actually makes some sense, as he expired "having just completed" the engraving. Perhaps then, the ghost has been "freed" of its haunting, now the dons figured out what had happened. It was not, in fact, some friends of Gawdy who abducted the child, as local legend and rumour had it. It was Gawdy himself, and Francis accuses him after death.

Probably a rare instance I've read of a ghost haunting a ghost. I suppose Sixth Sense may qualify as another such story.

May 4, 2017, 12:15pm Top

>25 elenchus:

Probably a rare instance I've read of a ghost haunting a ghost.

Nicely put!

Edited: Sep 25, 2018, 10:25am Top

My very first M.R. James story! Mark the day, the hour, the significance … and so appropriate that it's on a rainy misty day after last night's full moon. =D Three stories were mentioned in the Gothic Literature group for an earlier book study, so I wanted to find all three today, in order to hunt down comments and such. The Mezzotint and Casting The Runes and Rats and here it is again. Loving the overlap, the extra fodder for my new ghost story addiction!

First reveal, Robert Filcher brought to mind Harry Potter. Was that JKR's intentional nod to a revered author? Now I must turn to Thomas Hardy to read Tess!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMOMn3z0WD4 (The Mezzotint, audio, approx.28min)

Listened to an audiobook on YouTube read by Michael Hordern. The other two I managed to locate on a favourite site, the Univ.of Adelaide, and although I am unsure about copyright access in Canada, their site is well organized and appealing to the eye. The archive has online access alphabetically to author and also to story title. Found a Radcliffe novel here and have used them ever since.

ie. https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/j/james/mr/antiquary/contents.html (The Mezzotint, text)

I am at a disadvantage in that this line means nothing to me;

"Hall in Mr Williams’s college was at seven. It need not be dwelt upon; the less so as he met there colleagues who had been playing golf during the afternoon..."

Does this refer to an education thing, a museum thing, or a social thing?

Also unfamiliar lingo … skip, etc. and the use of rather for no reason drives me bonkers.

Sep 25, 2018, 10:20am Top

>27 frahealee:

The Adelaide archive is pretty impressive. We might be able to use it for future nominations, so I'll put the link over in the "Brainstorming" thread.

Sep 25, 2018, 10:55am Top

>27 frahealee: “Hall” referred to the college dons dining in the Great Hall. It means, in essence, dinner time.

Edited: Sep 25, 2018, 11:24am Top

>29 pgmcc: Is a 'don' a professor specifically? or a college staff member? or is it like in Italian, a title of respect (ie. Don Bosco)?

My boys are in residence at college and have a floor don but I thought it was like a supervisor of their rooms, etc. with one for each floor. Having never stepped foot inside any university, I am at a loss. Thanks for your tutelage.

I looked up your bookstore reference … The Book Loft in Dublin. Near a library. Is that your buddy's spot? With readings by the one-man MRJ wannabe? =) Sorry for vague-isms but I have been reading a metric ton of LT content this year!

There is a scene in Shadowlands that shows C.S. Lewis lining in to eat with students and colleagues … is it like that? Very impressive film, taught me a lot about the story, the characters, the writing, the 'frowned-upon' odds and ends, and loved Attenborough as a director to such a sweet young Joseph Mazello (my maiden name was Morello). This film came to mind because I was listening to Debra Winger recite Faulkner yesterday.

Sep 25, 2018, 11:54am Top

>30 frahealee:

A don is a fellow or tutor in a college. Oxford and Cambridge, the two traditionally elite colleges in England, would be very much into having dons. M.R. James was a don at King's College, Cambridge. There was the tradition of dons living in the university quarters and having their meals in the Ulla Maxima (Great Hall) together in a rather formalised fashion.

James reputedly wrote his stories to tell them to his fellow dons and students in his rooms at Cambridge in the run up to Christmas. One should read these stories with the image of M.R. James telling them to his colleagues and students in a room with walls covered in mahogany bookcases filled with old, leather bound tomes, and leather armchairs around the room occupied by enthralled listeners hanging on every word. The room, of course, is only lit by candles.

By the way, The Mezzotint is one of my favourite James stories.

When I first read his stories I enjoyed them as ghost stories. Any I have revisited have given me much more and have revealed James's sense of humour, and his teasing of those colleagues of his that pursued the sport of golf.

Sep 25, 2018, 12:05pm Top

>30 frahealee: I ran off and wrote my last post having read your first line. Now, having read the rest of your post I shall address your other questions.

The Loft was a great little bookshop. My friend, who himself had never stepped inside a university, was an avid reader and extremely knowledgeable in matters literary. He decided he want to a degree but we all said he did not want one. Well, he decided he wanted one and enrolled in Trinity College in Dublin, got his primary degree, went on to do a masters degree, and is now in Harvard doing a PhD.

Unfortunately he could not keep the bookshop open while he was doing all that and we lost a lovely spot to meet and discuss books.

The "one-man MRJ wannabe" as you call him, is a marvellous performer. I regret I cannot get to his performances more often. You will be able to find some of his work on-line if you search for "Nunkie". He has recorded a number of videos and has them on his website. He gave a few performances in the Loft and it was a perfect setting for the stories.

I have not seen Shadowlands so cannot comment on the dining room. Any of the old films, or TV programmes with university academics and students sitting at benches, staff wearing their gowns, will be the sort of thing that M.R. James referred to when he used the word, "Hall".

The practice still exists in some of the older universities. In Trinity College Dublin, it is referred to as "Commons".

Sep 25, 2018, 12:09pm Top

>31 pgmcc: in the run up to Christmas

It was James introduced me to the British tradition of a ghost story at Christmas, evidently preferably when read aloud. I've found it interesting to observe there is also the tradition of watching the monarch's speech, too. Chase the holiday message with a ghost?

Sep 25, 2018, 12:21pm Top

As I understand it, Christmas ghost stories got replaced by James Bond movies on tv, in a slot now occupied by Doctor Who xmas specials.

Sep 25, 2018, 12:24pm Top

>33 elenchus: My family had been in the habit of watching the BBC Christmas Eve ghost story every year but it was only years later that I learnt of James and realised many of the BBC stories were adaptations of his tales.

Sep 25, 2018, 12:33pm Top

>34 paradoxosalpha: The ghost stories we watched were on Christmas Eve rather than the Christmas Day after dinner slot occupied by Dr Who these years. I remember this distinctly because I was always wanting to watch the end of the ghost story but was being ushered out to attend midnight mass. It was called midnight mass but was usually held at 9pm in Belfast were I grew up because a few loyalist car bombs had been set to detonate amongst the people attending midnight mass on a couple of occasions. For some reason it was deemed more secure to have the mass earlier, possibly because more people would be available to watch for potential threats. I am sure it was not because they thought a car bomb would be less effective three hours before midnight.

Edited: Sep 25, 2018, 1:48pm Top

My mother's parents were from England and she would not feed us on CmasDay until we'd seen the Queen's message, and we had only 3 tv channels but CBC was faithful to broadcast it at noon or 1pm each year. Our Midnight Mass was at midnight, and Mum sang in the choir, so we had to be installed in our pew by 22:30h, carol sing from 23-24:00h, Mass 24:00-01:00h, home for buffet goodies and a dose of Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol (1951). I had no idea that ritual was maintained by any other family, let alone a culture of British ghost stories. It never occurred to me to ask! We now listen to the radio version of the Queen's Mssg, without tv service. Tradition takes turns. Dad did all the cooking, Italian man in a house with 5 women, poor guy, it was his only retreat.

>32 pgmcc: Thanks for the explanation. It gets a bit confusing because college in Canada means community college, University is called just that, and elite schools like Queens in Kingston, etc. are way out of reach for most of the population. 3yrs of college in Toronto for Tourism followed by 12yrs in the city employed by one woman until she died of cancer at age 46, was my only claim to fame. Then moved west for my family. Moved back to Ontario with my 4 and now they're embracing their own traditions.

I have 'alaudacorax' to thank for the sudden interest in MRJ. After mentioning an author on my Canadian Gothic thread in GothicLit group, he mentioned the similarity, about Davies writing ghost stories each year for a specific 'fest' attended by his students/colleagues for 18yrs straight. This has been compiled into book form and sold as High Spirits. I ordered my first Robertson Davies a few weeks ago, after finding reference to it on the CanLit group thread. Again, loving this overlap!

Also thought the term 'the commons' was an outdoor area like an enclosed courtyard or square for 'taking the air' or having a picnic between work or school breaks. Thanks also for clearing that up.

Sep 25, 2018, 1:52pm Top

>37 frahealee:
A “common” in a village is a piece of common land, i.e. land where any of thevillagers can graze their livestock. I have no idea how the meal got called commons.

Edited: Sep 25, 2018, 3:33pm Top

>16 elenchus:
>17 housefulofpaper:
I wondered at the importance of burying a person on the north side of a small church … is that for non-parishioners, or unconsecrated ground as you note? Was that reference to darkness, whereas the south side would get the sunlight? The better grass growth? The nicer stonework and flower beds? Curiouser and curiouser. I simply assumed that the caretaker had the responsibility of burying corpses, hanged for poaching or not, knew that Gawdy would refuse any form of absolution from a minister, reverend, cleric, etc., and so placed a cross on his back as a primitive form of last rites. The dead can't argue.

>23 elenchus: Am I the only one curious about the W? Is that the name he gave to the child, which cannot be spoken? A.W.F. was Arthur Francis but is that simply a detail we are given to prove ownership of the picture or did the father suspect supernatural interference when his child disappeared? Was he daring the ghost to come back? I want to know what was going on in his mind those 3yrs before he dropped dead on the anniversary, or did Gawdy have something to do with that also? Is there any significance in the 1802 and 1805 choice of dates? I craved an Francis/Gawdy face off just as the final work absorbed the energy of that confrontation, so the crime could be revealed in detail, taking the father's life as he'd taken the son's. A Faustus deal with the devil, 'you tell me the truth and I'll go with you to the grave, the other side'. I thought that transaction might have put a special 'finish' on the only witness, the painting, to be able to retell the story, the spirit of the father imprinting the truth into his opus. Is it a two-colour brn/wht image like old west photos in Poe's day? The use of that type of photography was a critical visual in the novel Mrs. Poe. Also wondered, since mezzo means half/moderate, could that mean medium, like psychic medium, the medium is the message, or was it just the art form of the time. If they are meant to be realistic, then it's a good tool to instill doubt. Was there a reason it had been seen by so many, just to give it validation? I counted seven including the golf-buddy and the skip.

>31 pgmcc: I like the image you've conjured up, evokes a poetry reading setting, contrasting a 'Beat' bistro with a more polished spot.
>32 pgmcc: Glad the Loft proprietor went on to astounding personal success, wow. Deg/Mas/PhD. Maybe I should hang out in a musty bookswap shop! The dust and yellowed-page musty smell of old buried treasures (get it? gold?) might even be worth it. I picture the shop in the alps in Inkheart (2008) where Mo (Brendan Fraser) finds a copy of the book before Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) shows up. Will also take a peek at that performance online since you or 'alaudacorax' noted his resemblance to MRJ. Thanks for reiterating the name of the theatre company.

Edited: Sep 25, 2018, 8:21pm Top

>39 frahealee:
Re. burials on the north side of a parish church - I'd certainly got the impression from various works of fiction that this was an area of unhallowed ground for murderers, suicides, the unbaptised, witches, magicians, vampires and werewolves...the picture seems, on the strength of a little bit of internet searching, to be a bit more fragmented and vague than that. Certainly there was a tradition of this side being shunned in favour of the south side (I found site referencing English tourists in rural Wales, of about the time of the events in "The Mezzotint", noting burials are "crowded into the south side" of the church ("the same practice prevails which is common in England"). It's rationalised, by one of the tourists/diarists, that burials on the south side would have been on the route into the church, and before the Reformation parishioners would have been reminded by the sight to offer up a prayer for their departed friends and neighbours. A burial on the opposite side of the church building would have been out of sight, out of mind.

Another source refers again to a Catholic origin of the practice, but this states the reason was that the Gospel was preached at the north side of the altar (whereas the Epistle is read on the south side: 'The underlying idea of this is that the Gospel was preached to "call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Hence the side from which the Gospel is read was delegated to those who, having committed crimes, were in greater need of salvation, and those so buried were said to be "out of sanctuary."'.This is apparently from Funeral Customs by Bertram S Puckle.

However, The Lore of the Land, Westwood & Simpson 2005, notes (in relation to the legend of a ghostly "hunting parson" in Lapford, Devon), that the practice of reserving the north side of a churchyard for "those whose salvation was uncertain or improbable", "probably stemmed from the apocryphal tradition that Hell lay in the north".

Edited- "murders" corrected to "murderers".

Sep 25, 2018, 8:01pm Top

>40 housefulofpaper:

Thanks for that survey, I'd similarly picked up a loose idea of a tradition but wondered how much was apocryphal.

Are Christian churches typically aligned with the compass rose? I assumed there was quite a bit of variation based upon the site involved. Huh.

Sep 25, 2018, 8:20pm Top

>41 elenchus:

Most churches are literally "orientated" - the altar, the main point of interest, is situated at the eastern end (once again, thank you Wikipedia!)

Sep 25, 2018, 8:26pm Top

>41 elenchus: Catholic curches were supposedly aligned so that the sun rises over the altar. This resulted in the main ausle being aligned east-west. I know plenty of chuches that do not follow this alignment so possibly the constraints of available sites made this more difficult to realise in more modern times.

Sep 26, 2018, 9:00am Top

>40 housefulofpaper: Wowsa, thanks for that extensive search! I had no idea that it was that indepth but I should have known better ... I've read Pillars of the Earth ; D

>42 housefulofpaper:
>43 pgmcc:
I wonder about the Vatican 2 changes in the 60s … my father was born in our parish in 1930 and his grandparents from Italy are buried in the Catholic cemetery (1942). The community began in the region in 1838 and the current English Gothic structure was finished in 1880. In those days, Mass was said in Latin and the priest kept his back to the congregation (except for the Gospel readings) but when VatII came along, the Mass was then said entirely in English and the priest faced the opposite way. Now, if our entranceway is at the eastern end of the church, and the altar/sanctuary are at the western end, that means when it was built, the priest faced west, so the sun would indeed have been rising over his shoulder! Fascinating stuff! Stained glass windows line both sides (north and south) but the main intricate panes are above the altar, and when the priest says evening Mass (around 7pm back then, for the sake of local farmers) the altar is bathed in light. It is a stunning sacred effect.

However, now that the priest faces east with his back to the west, since the early 60s, the light affects the building the same way so none of that initial majesty is lost. It has 18 and 22 foot ceilings in parts, but altar ceiling extends much higher up to accommodate the stained glass windows of St. Patrick and his cohorts (very high Irish/Italian population). The cemetery is located NORTH (hehe) of the church and over a bit to the east, because the portion of the field donated by a local farmer for this use happened to be located along North Town Line. Not sure what that says about my parents and grandparents and great grandparents! I'm okay with it. I don't know how to post a picture of the inside or the outside, but in British terms, 1880 is relatively recent. For us, it's a very big deal. The town is only 10,000ish.

Edited: Sep 26, 2018, 9:33am Top

Apologies to any who find my 'excess' unrelated to The Weird Tradition. My own thread in the 50Bks Group provides a link to the architectural details of this gothic structure. The building is part of the family, because my parents married there in 1953, and died there within the past ten years. Mum sang in that choir loft for sixty years. Dad worked as a custodian after his health failed, with me next door at the separate school of the same name. I was there every day after school to help him with chores, litter, etc. that he could not manage, and it might be my favourite time spent with him (aside from birding and books). It was a revered playground, if there is such a thing, and it has not a single unpleasant memory. Perhaps I am a rare entity in the modern world, but I have more faith in what I don't see, than in what I do, thanks to this upbringing.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/280077#6578419 (post 47 links the church construction history)

This group intrigues me, because although I comprehend very little science (biology, ok, but chemistry or Blackwood's mystic studies of alchemy/astrology/etc. or the Machen-isms I have yet to discover), the 'unexplained' has been in my skin since my Baptism day 14MAR65. I have simply been too busy working and raising my children to stick my nose in before now. Thanks sincerely for your patience with me, while I sort out where to place this genre in my own mind. As most of us do, we reach for the familiar... The horror for some is the comfort-zone of others.

Edited: Sep 26, 2018, 10:11am Top

I value the sidetracks and tangents as much as the four-square observations here on LT, whether in The Weird Tradition or another group. I might be motivated more by sacred geometry and you more by a personal link to a specific church, but the conversation is as valuable regardless of the various interests.

(And anyway, it's fairly easy to skip a post for anyone who isn't interested enough to read it through!)

Edited: Sep 26, 2018, 10:02am Top

>46 elenchus: Thanks for that insight. Having been away for twenty years, and returning with children of my own, tends to change the way you once viewed a plot of land that you once thought had little value. The church itself seats 425 but it has long since ceased to fill that to capacity more than twice a year. I only studied one year of history and have no mind for dates of wars, etc. so this is my touchstone to the past.

Now off to the GothicLit group to post my observations of Rats & Runes!

Edited: Sep 26, 2018, 1:48pm Top

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Edited: Sep 28, 2018, 11:55am Top

>48 Zambaco: Not sure why you deleted your post, as I found it helpful to know that 'commons' (whether lower case or upper) is an important part of life at both Oxford/Cambridge and at other prestigious educational institutions, and perhaps even at those deemed less so. Reputations aside, it obviously refers to common ground, whether for eating together in a formal way, or allowing village livestock to graze on 'greener pastures' which in Ireland once upon a time, was likely as much for survival as for social interaction. Re: >38 pgmcc:

Only wanted to add here, that I've swept through two other MRJ's this week; The Haunted Dolls' House and The Ash Tree.

In the latter, James also mentions the small village church being expanded to the north side where several of the graves were actually dug up and moved in order for the 'lord of the manor' nearby to expand his family pew. Good God. That carries things a bit too far, but maybe James caught wind of this 'event' in the news or the region or maybe just a whim or a dream. The story mentions the word 'unhallowed' side of the church, as though it would never occur to the guy to expand into the south side, where there might be more fuss made. Again, so interesting.

Our parish was built with an elementary school to the south, the parking lot to the west, and as it sits on a corner in the small town, north and east are streets. Across the street from the parking lot once sat residences for nuns who taught school, and a few years back, the homes that were built in later years, were demolished, moved, whatever, for a row of townhouses. When this construction began, the owner found graves, which had to be dug up and moved to the current cemetery. Not one or two but dozens. This was an immense undertaking with the procession and the blessings of old soil and new, etc. and I was out west so missed it, but great care and seriousness was taken by all involved parties; the town, the parishioners, the tradesmen, etc. and it was done correctly and completely very quickly. That would have been to the west of both the church and the school. The remains were given a new home and work went on and now likely forgotten by most. I had never heard of that happening before and it really stuck with me. My parents had tons of photos from local newspapers, etc. My dad served daily Mass as a altar boy in the 30s and 40s so perhaps felt connected to the ritual more than most others in town.

He also seems to have a fixation with 3s. Three years from the time the child disappears to the papa's death in Mezzotint, three months in Runes, three days, three minutes, keeps recurring. Now three is a big deal in a biblical sense, as is the number seven, but what's that got to do with James? Maybe nothing. Everyone's got a favourite (mine has changed a few times over my lifetime, but at one point it was three!). The older I get, the larger the number. Funny how that goes. ; D

In The Haunted Dolls' House there was no church, but there were a few funeral processions/observances. What an intriguing story. Makes me glad I was a tomboy!

Sep 28, 2018, 11:42am Top

>31 pgmcc:
>32 pgmcc:
Enjoyed the YouTube performances of M.R. James stories by the Nunkie Theatre soloist. What fun to think that James performed his stories rather than just reciting them. The 'scrapbook' is next on my list! Nice reading nook pictured in the snippets of what I saw, is that is standard set-up? Or does it vary depending on the venue? Love that he could likely fill an auditorium as much as a book store. I've seen Dickens done and Twain perhaps, and a memorable Simon Callow one-man show, but this is charming and captivating. =)

Edited: Sep 28, 2018, 11:58am Top

>50 frahealee:
I saw a Simon Callow one-man show in a theatre in Dublin in which he was playing Dickens and telling the story of his life. I was invited to the show by a supplier and Callow joined the party for dinner afterwards in a nearby restaurant. He is very talented and a good entertainer.

I am glad you enjoyed Robert's performances. He does not bring the whole set with him when he travels to Ireland. He has someone source specific items locally, such as a high-winged armchair, a candelabra, a table, and a few other small items. His performances can be very intimate as the audience is always very silent and everyone is hanging onto every word. It is delightful to attend one of his performances.

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