There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review of Witching Hill by E.W. Hornung (1913)



I first heard about E.W. Hornung's collection Witching Hill when reading Mark Valentine's wonderful collection A Country Still All Mystery (2017):

....This was followed by Witching Hill (1913) in which a pair of likeable young men, the whimsical Uvo Delavoye and his narrator Gillon, essentially a reprise of the Raffles/Bunny relationship, though not the formula, encounter eight curious adventures on an old estate now turned into modern homes. There is the suggestion of the occult influence of its former owner, a rake and libertine. Nocturnal adventures, including secret passages, locked rooms, breaking-and-entering, ancient curses and other sinister doings, make for a pleasing volume.

In 1992 I read all the Raffles stories. They were enjoyable, but as with most interconnected short story collections, highly uneven.

Witching Hill is certainly superior in tone and content to the Raffles books. Its subject is unique. Caveat: there is one story too many. The last tale, seeking to resolve the overall conundrum, is the weakest and most perfunctory. But considering the energy and fecundity of the series, it is a small price to pay.


CHAPTER I. UNHALLOWED GROUND

''Tis now the very witching time of night,'" said Uvo Delavoye, "'when church-yards yawn….'


…."Not an interesting place?" cried young Delavoye, in astonishment at a chance remark of mine. "Why, it's one of the most interesting in England! None of these fine old crusted country houses are half so fascinating to me as the ones quite near London. Think of the varied life they've seen, the bucks and bloods galore, the powder and patches, the orgies begun in town and finished out here, the highwaymen waiting for 'em on Turnham Green! Of course you know about the heinous Lord Mulcaster who owned this place in the high old days? He committed every crime in the Newgate Calendar, and now I'm just wondering whether you and I aren't by way of bringing a fresh one home to him."



CHAPTER II. THE HOUSE WITH RED BLINDS

Long-dead Lord Mulcaster's destructive influence reaches out to endanger the future of a young married couple. Great piece of multiple indirection.



CHAPTER III. A VICIOUS CIRCLE

An evil ring threatens to destroy the marriage prospects of a young couple.


CHAPTER IV. THE LOCAL COLOUR

The most delightful story in the book. The sister of the local vicar writes redeeming and inspiring stories often published by the Tract Society. But Miss Brabazon, under the influence of Witching Hill, then writes a story involving evil Lord Mulcaster's attempt to start his own English harem. Definitely not fit for The Tract Society.



CHAPTER V. THE ANGEL OF LIFE

Uvo Delavoye tries thwarting the influence of his evil ancestor Mulcaster while trying to save the life of a little boy.


CHAPTER VI. UNDER ARMS

A clever suburban house-breaking story. The difference: Uvo's obsessive preoccupation with suicide when a neighbor lends him a revolving.


"Talk about bare bodkins, otherwise hollow-ground razors!" cried Uvo, emptying his glass. "I couldn't do the trick with cold steel if I tried; but with a revolver you've only got to press the trigger and it does the rest. Then - I wonder if you even live to hear the row? - then, Gilly, it's a case of that 'big blue mark in his forehead and the back blown out of his head!'"



CHAPTER VII. THE LOCKED ROOM

Gillon deals with a tenant who refuses to pay rent.




CHAPTER VIII. THE TEMPLE OF BACCHUS

Uvo makes a self-sacrificing attempt to lay the Mulcaster spirit in Witching Hill.




Jay

6 March 2018











No comments:

Post a Comment