Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Lore of Proserpine (1913) by Maurice Hewlett

Maurice Hewlett, Author, poet and potential son-in-law to Posseidon

Maurice Hewlett was a British novelist who, when not publishing historical novels, took to seriously claiming that not only do Fairies exist, but that he met them personally numerous times, and even had somewhat of a long winded affair with a daughter of Posseidon.

Lore of Proserpine is a very odd book. The title character, the Roman Springtime Goddess Proserpina, though claimed to be somewhat of a Goddess ruling over all the fairies, only features in the final chapter of the book in passing. The beginning of the book itself talks about a tennant no one ever sees, who had his windows replaced with a mysterious glass that alters perception, but that's rather spoiled by being nothing more than an allegory.

The next two "stories" if they may be called that, are steeped deep with personal anecdotes of Hewlett's history, and the actual "encounters" as he describes them make one think that at the very least Hewlett himself may have believed them to be genuine if by nothing else than from the way they just end abruptly without any sort of payoff. A writer trying to weave a story would, and should have, used the image of a pale elven boy with gleaming, dark, pupil-less eyes torturing a rabbit or a story of seeing two lesbian fairies on Parliament Hill as a preface to further, fantastic adventurings. But Hewlett doesn't, all the while repeating to us how everything he says happened and how he saw it.

Later he does slip into the mode of a conventional storyteller, giving "other people's" accounts of fairy child-nappings or of wooing the spirit of a tree during a storm, and these as full stories with a beginning, middle and end. Sometimes he puts himself into the story too, and indeed what can one say to the supposed authenticity of a crowd of Londoners gathering, by some supernatural foresight, in a park at night to accost a messenger boy because he's probably the God Hermes and can fulfill fortunes, good or bad, via the telegram he delivers, with Hewlett himself seeing a lady he knows help a friend make her petition ? Or his claim, coming suddenly at the tail end of a different narrative, that he was present in a house where a woman gave birth to a fairy child fathered by the spirit of a rose and then said child disappeared ?

The parts of this book which aspire towards the analytical while preaching the existence of fairies are the dullest part of the whole affair, apart from those parts where Hewlett unironically asserts that the Greek Gods do exist in some tangible fashion, and after all, if he had fooled around with one of them it would probably be bad form to tell her her daddy's just a figment of her imagination and then again so is she.

Upon completion one has to pause and wonder about Hewlett. On one hand the inclusion of "borrowed" stories he had no part in, beyond claiming to have seen or met the personage in question, or someone known to them years later, and the rather shocking claim that there were in 1913 a quarter million fairy wives in England, plucked out of Sea or Meadow (and thus, without documentation, one should add) leads one to lean on the side of a bet or an intentional bid of ribaldry. On the other, the earlier parts of the book have that shakey quality, lacking in propper setup and delivery, seen so often in the works of Theosophists and other spiritualists who claim the non corporeal is real, which makes things rather uncertain.

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