The Usual

November 20, 2013

I was sitting quietly in the corner of an entirely fictional pub the other day and overheard the following conversation at the bar:

‘I’ll tell you something, You never hear of the idiot and the dog these days.’

‘Not these days, no.’

‘I wonder what happened.’

‘The usual I expect.’

‘Yes.’

[They contemplate The Usual]

‘Well, no great hole, and I’m sure and I’ll survive.’

‘Probably.’

Fired by this burst of public enthusiasm, but aware that there was nothing to be done about what they had quite correctly identified as The Usual (horrific, mundane, inescapable), I felt I could at least make some half-hearted attempt to keep the ashes warm…

In fact, I thought, as I munched on my entirely notional bag of dry-roasted peanuts, the act of writing seemed very like the act of trying to light, maintain, and stay warm by, a peat fire. You have a little kindling, which will give the initial flame, and a large amount of damp, old, cheap compressed earth, which will form the substance of the fire. You also have yesterday’s paper, the crossword a scant third completed, and a barely flammable box of matches. By means of these, plus a fuckload of artificial firelighters (placeholder for drink and drugs let’s say), you eventually light the kindling, the flames giving an initial burst of optimism. Once you have got this burning nicely, you put on a large piece of peat, which immediately stifles the flames and creates a deal of smoke. You find more quickly-burning material to throw on it, and through a mixture of cosseting, extreme care and a fuckload more firelighters, eventually get the underside of the peat to start glowing, though it’s clear the outcome of the entire time-consuming enterprise is never anything less than dubious.

If you are lucky, lucky mind, the peat will reach a critical temperature and start, well burning would be too much, smouldering in a way that suggests it is not imminently going to stop. Success. You may place on more peat.

The fire itself will of course never give off any heat, unless you hold your hands very very close to it, – ie can be considered no sort of success in and of itself – and will require almost constant care and attention merely to keep the semblance of it going. Nevertheless it may offer some private pride and a little local warmth.

You have read stories about how families kept the thing going perpetually, the slow-burning nature of peat allowing the fire to lie in abeyance overnight, only to be revived the next morning with the addition of more peat and a little careful blowing. Thus the fire never goes out, and provides a constant source of much-needed warmth and sustenance for the entire household.

Naturally, what you see the next morning is little sustenance and a load of ashes, still somewhat warm yes, but clearly very far from being of any use to anyone or anything, even yourself with your very low threshold of success.

You rake out the grate, make a cup of tea, put on your heaviest jumper and two pairs of socks, and fetch the duvet from the bedroom, before settling to today’s crossword.

Of course, if The Usual is anything, it is an acknowledgement that flames do not burn forever.

So, rather than even attempt anything of worth, I’m going to set the bar low and use this place as a weekly record of Things I Have Liked Or Found Mildly Diverting. Basically youtube embeds and a couple of quotes.

As a USP it might need some polishing. Crowds or even small mildly diverted groups I do not expect.

2012-12-04 20.36.37


lrb copy eds need greater knowledge of youtube pop

May 12, 2013

Enjoyed reading Diarmaid McCulloch’s piece on the Council of Trent in the latest LRB – One Enormous Room (DMc uses a quote from Kenneth Clark at the beginning ‘I wonder if a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit has ever been conceived or written down in an enormous room’)

But it really, really needed to be titled ‘One Big Room, Full of Bad Bishops’

eg.

And we sound like Luther Luther Peter Peter Bishop of La Cava

Them basic bishops give a shit, but I don’t even bother.

 

I got Tridentine plenum

I got that ius divinum

Open Papal representative

Trust me in your diocese

Yeah you can kiss the ring, but you can never touch the crown

I smoke a million Reformation butts and I ain’t never coming down

Bish, you ain’t et Orbi

I see you work in Urbi

Council II, Supersize

Hurry up, need Luuumen.

Gnarly, radical

Ex cathedra magical

Santa Maria Major, Concilium episcopal.

Call me if you need a fix,

Call me if you will recuse,

See them Presbyterians

They don’t ever leave the group.

We’re in the Adige, cruising,

We’ve got the stolen plate

Serving Pope Paul 3 over there in the City State

Trent’s colder than a fridge or a freezer

We’re snatching all your bishops at our LEISURE.

 

One big room, full of bad bishops.

etc

 

Luther Luther Peter Peter Bishop of La Cava

We’re looking at Madonna but we’re glossing the Church Fathers,

Paul – you know I keep that work in my trunk,

Got the Law on sole faith, if you wanna press your luck.

We’re yelling “free matrimony”,

Till we get Tametsi,

Young, rich and flashy

I’ll be with Medici

You can’t find that? I think you need a Danti map

My Florentine Pitti pals, did push Savanarola back.

Encycle that, my groupies follow the Curia,

I’m writing up a Vulgate and calling I Loyola

While you’re looking bitter, I’ll be looking better

The type of bishop that you wish was present at Nicæa.

Nuncio, director, plus I’m my own boss,

So plush, mitre fierce with the gold gloss

Which means nobody getting over me

I got the swag and it’s pumping out my monasteries.

 

One big room, full of bad bishops etc.

 

Ohhh, all you basic-ass monks out there?

Man I got a room full of bad bishops.

They don’t need Zwingli, they don’t need Luther. Calvin.


my favourite people in *religion and the decline of magic* so far

May 11, 2013

the antinomian who declared that he would sell all religions for a jug of beer

the butcher in the diocese of Ely in 1608 who set his dog on the people as they went to church

Brian Walker, who in 1635 was asked if he did not fear God, retorted that, ‘I do not believe there is either God or Devil; neither will I believe anything but what I see’ and who as an alternative to the Bible commended ‘the  book called Chaucer.’

A Cambridgeshire man was charged with indecent behaviour in church in 1598 after his ‘most loathsome farting, striking, and scoffing speeches’ had occasioned ‘the great offence of the good and the great rejoicing of the bad.’

The Bexley man who in 1313 made images of wood and stone in his garden and worshipped them as gods, before proceeding to kill his maidservant [obv that bit’s not so good]

When Mr Evans, rector of Holland Magna, Essex, preached in 1630 about Adam and Eve making themselves coats of fig-leaves, one loud-mouthed parishioner demanded to know where they got the thread to sew them with.

of confusion regarding communion: At one church in the area there were only two male communicants. When the cup was given to the first he touched his forelock and said, ‘Here’s your good health, sir.’ The second, better informed, said, ‘Here’s the good health of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ At Chippenham a poor man took the chalice from the vicar and wished him a Happy New Year.

the salutory story of the man of sixty who had all his life attended sermons, twice on Sundays, and frequently on other occasions in the week. yet the answers he gave the minister who questioned him on his deathbed spoke for themselves:

Being demanded what he thought of God, he answers that he was a good old man; and what of Christ, that he was a towardly young youth; and of his soul, that it was a great bone in his body; and what should become of his soul after he was dead, that if he had done well he should be put into a pleasant green meadow.

the people in 1547 of one parish in Cambridge where, ‘when the vicar goeth into the pulpit to read that he himself hath written, then the multitude of the parish goeth straight out of the church, home to drink’

Lady Eleanor Davis, who in 1625 ‘heard early in the morning a Voice from Heaven, speaking as through a trumpet these words: “There is nineteen years and a half to the Judgment Day”‘. From then until her death in 1652 she had a continuous career of prophetic utterance, interrupted only by consequent periods of imprisonment. Contemporaries believed her to have predicted the deaths of Charles I, Laud and Buckingham, as well as that of her first husband. her ecstatic and utterly obscure pronouncements were frequently printed, and as frequently suppressed. In 1633 she was imprisoned and heavily fined by the High Commission for illegally printing at Amsterdam a commentary on Daniel in which she made dark predictions about the fate awaiting Laud and Charles I. A few years later she went berserk in Lichfield Cathedral, defiling the altar hangings and occupying the episcopal throne, declaring she was the Primate of all England. This led to a further period of restraint.

two bits of commentary from Keith Thomas worth quoting as well:

[In the Elizabethan period] a substantial proportion of the population regarded organised religion with an attitude which varied from cold indifference to frank hostility.

&

Not enough justice has been done to the volume of apathy, heterodoxy and agnosticism which existed long before the onset of industrialism.

Cannot be said enough. It is not something we have just discovered, or to be used as some indicator of ‘progress’ – worldly indifference is persistent.


Just Checking

August 15, 2012

Accidie’s a sin, right?


Browning’s Birthday – May 7th, PUT IT IN YOUR DIARIES.

April 25, 2012

Ok, I meant to say in that post on the first Sordello book that the reason, part of the reason, I’m reading it, is because it’s Browning’s 200th BIRTHDAY on May 7th.

There’s a great tumblr celebrating his birthday here:

http://browningversions.tumblr.com/

I’ve actually got a few questions for browning versions, but I’m not sure how tumblr/non-tumblr blogs do this.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: JAMES MASON READS BROWNING. OVER KRAUTROCK N STUFF.

I mean, the hell. (I’ve only listened to Andrea del Sarto so far – it’s great.)

Here dem questions anyway [EDIT then i go and think more about them in a comment, rather’n just lazily asking]:

1) The Ohio edition. Regularly see phrases like ‘disgraceful’ and ‘massive deficiencies’ bandied about regarding it. What happened? Why so bad? Poor textual readings? Insufficient editorial apparaturs? Guess I could google around a bit more, find out. I’ve got a few of these tho as they came up cheaply remaindered a couple of years ago. Just got ’em for the poems, just got ’em for the poems. But if these are BAD readings, I wanna know. [EDIT keep saying ‘readings, readings’ like it’s f’ing shakespeare. Just mean punctuation, choice of edition, sensible word choice where there is editorial confusion etc.]

2) A Death in the Desert – Renan/Strauss. Wot.

3) Ok, Dryden and Browning, holding on to the ledge, obscurity beneath etc. Agreed. Why tho? I mean, what are the drivers of popularity in non-contemporary poetry these days? Academia? Lit pages? In some ways he seems like an ideal internet poet, sorry sorry, but the sort you can make an encyclopedia for (there is one of course! I had it in my hand the other day). Surely ‘difficulty’ isn’t a bar these days? Why isn’t he cool? Not enough King of a Movement stuff? Too long?

4)  “tbh I getMen and Women and Dramatis Personae mixed up, have to look at the contents to remember what’s in what.” phew.

RIght, want to write on BOOK II of Sordello, but I gotta go get pizza. Browning woulda ate pizza for sure – plenty of good places just near his house:

Image

bastard wasnae home to twats wi book bags.


I’d’ve let him go first if only I’d known

August 22, 2011

After all it’s easier to respond than to put forth.

1.

I wrote a long, rambling post about e-readers, and how their effect won’t be to do with bullshit psychology but marketing, that like most of what I write irritated me the next day by seeming dishonest; the act of putting things into words somehow sundering the connection between what I feel and what is said. That’s writing for you, I guess, or at least not particularly good writing. I went to bed late and was knackered for work today for that shit! Not only that, but the next day I see an article, an entire speech no less, that goes into the marketing etc of writing in the future far better and in more detail.

Well.

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Little Detchie-Head

August 23, 2010

Look, I was going to keep this for after I’d done a longer piece on Brooke, but it’s taking so goddam long that I might as well just whack this up anyway, from The Dog at Clambercrown:

My impressions of India, however, were perhaps derived less from Aunt Ada than from the story of Little Detchie-head – that most terrifying of children’s books, rivalling for sheer Freudian horror even Strewwelpeter himself.

I SUPPOSE THAT Little Detchie-Head has, like Stumps, been long forgotten; it is certainly out of print and appears to be quite unobtainable. The little book was published, I think, in the same series as the better-known Little Black Sambo and Little Black Mingo; at any rate, the formate and the illustrations were very similar. I should not be surprised to learn that Little Detchie-head had been withdrawn by the publishers, at an early date, in response to the protests of parents whose children, only too probably, had become half-witted or stark raving mad after reading it. The only reason I didn’t go mad myself was, I think, because the scene of Little Detchie-head was, after all, laid in India, and I could comfort myself – as we have most of us comforted ourselves, in recent times, when reading some more than usually terrifying ‘exposure’ of Nazism or Communism – with the thought that ‘it couldn’t happen here’.

Little Detchie-head was about a little girl ‘who lived with her parents in India’. Apparently normal and well behaved in other respects, she suffered from a precocious form of pyromania, which manifested itself in an incurable passion for poking fires. One day, in the kitchen, when the Indian servant’s back was turned, she slipped and fell (it was only to be expected) headlong into the flames, and ‘her head was burned right off’ – thought the rest of her, oddly enough, remained not only intact but, apparently, alive and kicking. The servant returns – ‘And, oh! Domingo’s face,’ says the tetxt, ‘when he saw his little missy-baba lying on the floor with no head.’ Domingo, however, is a resourceful type; hastily seizing a large detchie, or cooking-pot, from a shelf, he paints a pair of eyes, a nose and a mouth upon its side, and sets it carefully upon the heroine’s severed neck, surmounting it (a nice touch, this) by her cotton sun-bonnet, which apparently, by some miracle, has survived the flames. With remarkable self-possession (and suffering, apparently, from no considerable after effects) little Detchie-head trots off to her parents who, it seems, notice nothing particularly unusual about her, apart from the fact that ‘all she can say is “Clap, clap, clapper-apper-apper.”‘ This rudimentary vocabulary apparently suffices her for the next weeks, nor do her parents seem unduly troubled by it. Christmas, however, comes at last, and Santa Claus, with an admirable appropriateness, leaves in the little girl’s stocking a large, blonde, pink-faced doll’s head. Delighted by this seasonable Yule-tide gift, little Detchie head rises with the lark and, discarding the unbecoming detchie, sticks the doll’s head upon her neck, with the help of a handy pot of glue. Then she runs to Mamma and Papa, tossing her expensive, brand-new curls, and chattering away nineteen-to-the-dozen – presumably in her normal, pre-Detchie-head accents. ‘And’, so the story relates, ‘they were very much pleased’ – surely, one feels, in the circumstances, a rather tepid reaction on the parents’ part; though they do not, it must be admitted, appear to have been a very sensitive or perceptive couple. Little Detchie-head, at any rate, is completely cured, thereafter, of her pyromaniacal proclivities, and indeed, as the author (or authoress, as I suspect) concludes, ‘has to be dragged past a fire’ in future.

The surprising thing about Little Detchie-head is, I think, its date – it must have been published in the nineties or the early nineteen-hundreds – and also the fact it was written, presumably, by a middle-class Englishwoman for English children. Strewwelpeter, after all, was written by a German, and an early nineteenth-century German at that, so that one can explain it – if not excuse it – as a by-product of the ‘Romantic Agony’. But Little Detchie-head is quite another kettle of fish: one doesn’t look for such sadistic horrors in Edwardian England, and it seems barely credible that it should ever have been published in this country, let alone widely read (as it undoubtedly was) in English nurseries.

In my own case, as I have said, the Indian setting made the horrors of the story seem comfortable remote; on the other hand, the knowledge that such appalling events could happen there was to colour my ideas about India for years to come (the only other book about India by which I was ever deeply influenced was E.M. Forster’s novel, which, when I first read it, seemed more or less to confirm the alarming impression made by Little Detchie-head). I developed, myself, a wholesome dread of fires; and the sigh of an Ayah, attendant upon some children staying in our village, could fill me with a tremulous apprehension. I was half-inclined, too, to identify the original little Detchie-head with my cousin, Nancy Pullen, whose hair was suspiciously blonde and curly, and who, moreover, had for several years ‘lived with her parents in India’. I never dared asked her whether she had had, at one period of her life, a ‘detchie’ instead of a head; but it remained a disturbing possibility, and I should hardly have been surprised if , reverting suddenly to her former detchie-hood, she had startled the company at tea-time by rattling out those jangling, metallic syllables (‘Clap, clap, clapper-apper-apper’) which had left her heartless and impercipient parents so strangely unmoved.

——-

Ooh, a half-formed note I couldn’t really develop in any way –

The only thing I’d add to this is to point out the potential for the grotesque those writers with a moral purpose have. Whether it is the exempla of the monastic ages, Swiftian satire or minatory fables such as Little Detchie-head, the disorder in the physical world that imprudent behaviour or moral turpitude engenders is representative of disastrous alterations of the material universe. (And ghosts, are, after all, moral creatures – spiritual excretions congregating around wrongs, with no understanding of the pragmatism that human flesh requires).

(grotesque as non-moral secular absurdities – see Kayser – “the Elder Bruegel paints the increasingly estranged world of our daily life not with the intention of teaching, warning, or arousing our compassion but solely in order to portray the inexplicable, incomprehensible, ridiculous, and horrible.”).


The Case of the Gigantic Can’t Be Arsed

March 23, 2010

Do you know what I’m sick of? I’m sick of this goddam essay (essay not included). With each word I add it becomes longer and boringer. And the addition of each subsequent word becomes more laborious. And the whole thing toils along with a stillborn tediousness.

I’m thinking of entirely giving up on the idea of putting words next to each to create a meaning greater than the individual particles. I don’t think it works. Not sure there’s anything in it. Outmoded flummery. Soon we’ll be able to move ideas around with our EYEBALLS and then what sort of idiot will I look?

I’ll tell you what I do like though. I like the little pretend stories put at the beginning of actual stories that you get sometimes. Presumably fun ideas the author had which didn’t quite fadge, or amusing whimsies, help add a bit of solidity to the whole thing. This sort of thing, Sherlock Holmes of course, The Musgrave Ritual –

“There are cases enough here, Watson,” said he, looking at me with mischievous eyes. “I think that if you knew all that I had in this box you would ask me to pull some out instead of putting others in.”

“These are the records of your early work, then?” I asked. “I have often wished that I had notes of those cases.”

“Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely before my biographer had come to glorify me.” He lifted bundle after bundle in a tender, caressing sort of way. “They are not all successes, Watson,” said he. “But there are some pretty little problems among them. Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife. And here–ah, now, this really is something a little recherché.”

I want to know about the singular affair of the aluminium crutch. Not about a treasure map, which 12 generations of Musgraves haven’t been able to work out is a treasure map, despite clearly being a treasure map. Actually, might as well put it here, some of the lines are a bit abstract admittedly, but I’ll give you a clue, there’s one line that is a dead giveaway –

“‘Whose was it?’

“‘His who is gone.’

“‘Who shall have it?’

“‘He who will come.’

“‘Where was the sun?’

“‘Over the oak.’

“‘Where was the shadow?’

“‘Under the elm.’

“How was it stepped?’

“‘North by ten and by ten, east by five and by five, south by two and by two, west by one and by one, and so under.’

“‘What shall we give for it?’

“‘All that is ours.’

“‘Why should we give it?’

“‘For the sake of the trust.’

400 years this imbecile family performed this ritual without ever wondering what it was about.

Ornamental stories. Here’s a good one from The Reigate Puzzle –

It was some time before the health of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes recovered from the strain caused by his immense exertions in the spring of ’87. The whole question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis are too recent in the minds of the public, and are too intimately concerned with politicians and finance to be fitting subjects for this series of sketches. .. Even his iron constitution, however, had broken down under the strain of an investigation which had extended over two months, during which period he had never worked less than fifteen hours a day, and had more than once, as he assured me, kept to his task for five days at a stretch. Even the triumphant issue of his labors could not save him from reaction after so terrible an exertion, and at a time when Europe was ringing with his name and when his room was literally ankle-deep with congratulatory telegrams I found him a prey to the blackest depression. Even the knowledge that he had succeeded where the police of three countries had failed, and that he had outmanoeuvred at every point the most accomplished swindler in Europe, was insufficient to rouse him from his nervous prostration.

So here’s a boring story about Reigate involving preternaturally stupid criminals and witnesses. That guff about it all being too recent in the mind and too intimately concerned with politicians and finance is massive lies by the way. Read the first story in His Last Bow if you don’t believe me – doesn’t bother him there. Actually don’t. It’s really bad.

Here’s a couple of good ones from the short story Opening the Door by Arthur Machen –

I must allow, however, that during my ten years or so in Fleet Street, I came across some tracks that were not devoid of oddity. There was that business of Campo Tosto, for example. That never got in the papers. .. My news editor was struck by something odd in the brief story that appeared in the morning paper, and sent me down to make inquiries. I left the train at Reigate; and there I found that Mr Campo Tosto had lived at a place called Burnt Green – which is a translation of his name into English – and that he shot at trespassers with a bow and arrows. I was driven to his house, and saw through a glass door some of the property which he had bequeathed to his servant: fifteenth-century triptychs, dim and rich and golden; carved statues of the saints; great spiked altar candlesticks; storied censers in tarnished silver; and much more of old church treasure. The legatee, whose name was Turk, would not let me enter; but, as a treat, he took my newspaper from my pocket and read it upside down with great accuracy and facility.

And then there was the affair of the J.H.V.S. Syndicate, which dealt with a Cabalistic cipher, and the phenomenon, called in the Old Testament, ‘the Glory of the Lord,’ and the discovery of certain objects buried under the site of the Temple at Jerusalem; that story was left half told, and I never heard the ending of it. And I never understood the affair of the hoard of coins that a storm disclosed on the Suffolk coast near Aldeburgh. From the talk of the longshoremen, who were on the look-out amongst the dunes, it appeared that a great wave came in and washed away a slice of the sand cliff just beneath them. They saw glittering objects as the sea washed back, and retrieved what they could. I viewed the treasure – it was a collection of coins; the earliest of the twelfth century, the latest, pennies, three or four of them, of Edward VII, and a bronze medal of Charles Spurgeon. It is very clear, for example, that the hoard was not gathered by a collector of coins; neither the twentieth-century pennies nor the medal of the great Baptist preacher would appeal to a numismatologist.

It’s probably just his ancient little folk again, but still, it might not be. Might be time travel. Might be an early version of Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. That’s the great thing about these little ornamental stories, they provoke the imagination.

Anyway, back to writing. Not going to happen. Never going to tell the strange story of Faber Finds and the Great God Mammon burning Human Flesh in his Court of Gold, the case of the Cowardly Italian and the Medieval Snail Combat, or the Mysterious Flying Cars of de Montherlant, or even The Story of the Rescue of Reality by Tintoretto and Its Eventual Dissipation by Magnasco. How can I? I’ve been writing the same paragraph over and over again for two months.

Just going to go all floppy. Drift for a bit. See what’s on the telly. New Fall album’s out soon.


‘That’s another evening gone’

November 23, 2009

Thanks to the excellent Baroque in Hackney blog, I’ve been watching this wonderful little 1964 interview between John Betjeman and Philip Larkin in Hull.

Larkin’s voice has a wonderful dolorous tone to it, diffident but weighty, that is especially pleasing in the not infrequent moments of wry humour.

I’m reminded of the anecdote Kingsley Amis tells somewhere or other, on seeing son Martin talking to Philip Larkin across a crowded room. Philip was talking earnestly and moving his hands and arms in emphatic support of his argument.

Later Kingsley asked Martin what they had been talking about – poetry perhaps? Literature? Art?

No, said, Martin, not quite, he was complaining (and here you must imagine Larkin’s ponderous tones) about BILLS. You get one BILL and then you pay it, and the next day you get ANOTHER BILL. All these BILLS.

Speaking of Kingsley Amis, note the gravestone in the cemetery where Betjeman and Larkin go, which has the name J Dixon on it. It was Larkin who Amis was visiting at Leicester, when he walked in to the common room and thought ‘Someone should do something about this,’ and so Lucky Jim was born, dedicated to Larkin, who made many recommendations for the revision of the original draft.

Anyway, do watch it, it’s only about 15 minutes, in three parts on YouTube. There’s an excellent reading of Church Going with its memorable speculation about the future, feeling almost like science fiction – rather like the ruined society of the final Quatermass for instance – but mainly notable for the remarkable articulation of a sympathetic secular understanding of, well, not religion exactly – whatever it is to do with churches that he evokes in the poem in fact. Which previous inexpert statement shows both the worth of poetry and the skill of Larkin.

Oh, and one final note, I’m going to try putting this blog up on Google Wave, simultaneous with the site here: for what it’s worth, it’d be quite nice to have comments and notes that can be expanded in the actual text I think. We’ll see anyway.

And here’s the link to this one – https://wave.google.com/wave/#restored:wave:googlewave.com!w%252BWNL9i5VNF


MR James, R Kipling, D Welch – Three Ghost Stories for All Hallows’ Even

October 31, 2009

1

‘Ah,’ he said, ‘Count Magnus, there you are. I should dearly like to see you.’

‘Like many solitary men,’ he writes, ‘I have a habit of talking to myself aloud; and, unlike some of the Greek and Latin particles, I do not expect an answer. Certainly, and perhaps fortunately in this case, there was neither voice nor any that regarded: only the woman who, I suppose, was cleaning up the church, dropped some metallic object on the floor, whose clang startled me.’

Despite their capacity to create mortal fear, the presentation of ghosts must be delicately handled. They are sensitive entities, with a particular aversion to being overdescribed, which leads many of them to avoid the light. We must tread carefully, so that we don’t frighten them.

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