Saturday, October 27, 2012

James-A-Day: Rats

A gibbet stone
There is not a single rat in this story.  Still, it's a good creepy title, sitting there all by itself.  It's really a reference to the quotation from Dickens story "Tom Tiddler's Ground" used as an epigraph, but the description in the epigraph matches an event in the story.

Mr. Thomson, a typical Jamesian protagonist--that is, scholarly, too curious, and perhaps a bit rabbity--is staying at a quiet country inn for a month to get some reading done.  (Holy moley, who can do that?  I'm not sure if it sounds like paradise or too stultifying for words.  Paradise for a week, at least.)  Anyway, young Thomson is a bit too prone to poking his nose in where it doesn't belong.  He peeks into the inn's front-facing upper room and finds more than he bargained for.

I noticed that there's a mention of a stone base for a gibbet in this story, and those happen pretty frequently with MRJ.  Since they're nearly always described as a stone with a hole in the middle, it took me a while to figure out what they're supposed to be, but I suppose Edwardian readers would have known right away.  Evidently James mentions them in his book Suffolk and Norfolk.  He knew those counties very well indeed, and I'd quite like to read the book, but it's quite hard to get around here.  Maybe I'll hope that it will show up as an ebook one of these days.

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