“The Man Who Went Too Far”

It’s another Pan story.

Review: “The Man Who Went Too Far”, E. F. Benson, 1904.

Saki’s “The Music on the Hill” uses Pan in a more restricted way than Benson does here. Saki’s Pan is the center of an old religion and keeps his association with hunting, fertility, and music.  Benson’s story is closer to E. M. Forester’s “The Story of a Panic”. Pan is terrifying because he blurs distinctions, goes against the Ancient Greek tendency and talent for categorizing the world.

The story is set near the village of St. Faith in Hampshire, England. Its pleasant, rural nature is somewhat marred, the narrator notes, with a local legend about a monstrous goat skipping with “hellish glee” in the woods. It is a story linked to a very handsome, in fact beautiful, young artist who lived there.

The tale the narrator will tell was related to him by Darcy, a mutual friend of that artist and our narrator. Darcy, who hasn’t seen the artist Frank Halton in six years, is convalescing after a bout of typhoid fever and goes to visit Frank in June. 

Just before Darcy arrivs, Frank is doing what he often does these days, lounging in a hummock in a meadow by a stream. His house is on the outskirts of town. 

Darcy is amazed at how much younger Frank looks than the last time he saw him. Frank says he has a lot to tell Darcy, and Darcy won’t believe it.

Continue reading ““The Man Who Went Too Far””

“The Music on the Hill”

Saki penned this week’s weird story being discussed over at LibraryThing.

And that brings up the following story, courtesy of the Roads to the Great War blog:

Among the 73,000 names engraved on the memorial to the missing of the Somme at Thiepval is that of Lance Sergeant H. H. Munro of the 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers. H.H. Munro, aka Saki, had gained popularity before the Great War for his witty and off-beat stories. He could have avoided serving, but Munro was the son of a soldier and a child of the Empire. And so he found himself at the Somme in November 1916 during the battle’s final stages, when the high command decided that they damn well ought to capture the village of Beaumont Hamel, because they were supposed to take it on the first day of the fighting, July 1st. Munro’s company had been put out to guard the left flank in a night attack on the village. It was a foggy night, and the fighting had died down by the early hours. Munro and some other men had taken cover in a shell hole. An English officer called across to a friend. A man struck a match, Munro snapped, “Put that bloody cigarette out!” whereupon he was shot in the head by a single round from a sniper. As Saki, he always appreciated a telling punch line.

Review: “The Music on the Hill”, Saki, 1911. 

As you expect from Saki, this is a short, darkly humorous tale. It concerns one Sylvia (an obviously ironic name) Seltoun. She is “pugnacious by circumstance”, veteran of many small disputes which she has managed to win. Her latest concerns her husband Mortimer, dubbed “Dead Mortimer” by his enemies.

His family wasn’t pleased about their marriage, and Mortimer, before his marriage, was not known for liking women. Her newest struggle is to pry Mortimer “away from Town, and its group of satellite watering-places”. She wants to get him to go to his country home in Yessney.  His mother says he’ll never go, but, if he does, he won’t leave. It has some kind of hold on him. 

When Sylvia gets there, she isn’t real keen on Yessney. She’s town bred and not used to “the almost savage wildness about Yessney”. It seems a place where the joy of life is linked to the “terror of unseen things”. 

Continue reading ““The Music on the Hill””

“The Story of a Panic”

The years 1894 through 1912 saw English writers writing many stories using the god Pan. I’ve already covered The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen and Kenneth Grahme’s The Wind in the Willows.

We’re doing something unusual at the weird fiction discussion group, the Deep Ones, over at LibraryThing. We’re starting a look at a slew of other stories using Pan, and this is the first one.

Review: “The Story of a Panic”, E. M. Forester, 1912.

Our narrator, never given a name that I recall, starts out saying he is going to tell his story “with no pretensions to literary style”. He is going to give “an unbiased account” of something that happened eight years ago. The very first line mentions “Eustace’s career” and how it goes back to an incident one afternoon in Italy eight years ago.

At an Italian hotel are a party of Englanders. Besides the narrator and his wife and two daughters, there are the two Miss Robinson – two sisters, their nephew Eustace, the “would-be artist” Leyland, and the former curate Sandbach whose is there to prepare Eustace for public school. The narrator doesn’t like Leyland, and he especially does like the fourteen-year old Eustace. He thinks Eustace is “indescribably repellent”, a whiner, indolent, and incurious about anything. 

I suspect we are not to find the narrator very sympathetic, that he’s a satire of a certain type of Englishman Forester knew. The first indication of that are his constant remarks about how Eustace needs to be more sporting. 

One day, they all go on a picnic to a wooded and beautiful valley – the Vallone Fontana Caroso. It’s rather like an upside-down hand with finger-like ravines, wooded, radiating out from it. When they arrive, the narrator’s daughter Rose, an amateur photographer, notes the beauty of the valley and how it, its hills, and the sea in the background would make a beautiful picture. Sandbach agrees, but Leyland says it would make a very poor picture indeed. Rose asks why (with more charity than deserved notes the narrator). Because the top of the background hill is “intolerably straight”, the perspective is all wrong from their current position, and the colors dull and monotonous says Leyland. The narrator retorts he doesn’t know anything about art but the scene makes him content. One of the Miss Robinsons and Sandbach agree. Leyland replies that they “confuse the artistic view of nature with a photograph”. 

Continue reading ““The Story of a Panic””

“The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains”

A look at the weird fiction work discussed last week over at LibraryThing.

Review: “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains”, Frederick Marryat, 1839.

This is something a bit different than the usual weird fiction I review. It’s an excerpt from Marryat’s novel The Phantom Ship which is about a man, seemingly Philip here, who is trying to remove a curse from his father – who is no less than the Flying Dutchman of legend. It’s a tale nested within a larger narrative.

Thus, the story opens with two men, Philip and Krantz, leaving a group of other men arguing over some gold just discovered on an island. They get into a boat and head west for Goa.

As they sail, their discussion turns to destiny. Some men, like the ones they left arguing over gold, are destined to misery and misfortune. 

Philip urges Krantz to talk about his past, which he has alluded to, when Philip told him some “mysterious tale”. 

Krantz asks Philip if he’s ever heard of the Hartz Mountains. Philip says he’s heard it’s a strange place. It is a strange place, Krantz replies, but he believes the tales told of it.

Krantz wonders why “malevolent beings” are permitted to trouble “unoffending mortals”. But so they are. Philip says humans have free will and “Divine justice” to help in their struggle with their own passions and unseen enemies. Those are more than enough. Krantz agrees and then tells his story. 

His father was the serf of a Hungarian nobleman and married to a beautiful woman, so beautiful, the nobleman had an adulterous affair with her, and Krantz’s father killed them both and fled, taking Krantz’s elder brother, Caesar, him, and his sister Marcella. 

Continue reading ““The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains””