Here as with just about every MRJ story, we see that his focus is on antiquarian studies and the perils associated with such learning. Richard William Pfaff commented that "...the really remarkable thing about them [is] the antiquarian background." S. T. Joshi (in my Penguin copy's introduction) takes this further and says that "terror is most effective when emerging from the depths of history." James set his stories in the modern era, and then squashed modernity under the weight of centuries.
In "Lost Hearts," Mr. Abney takes his antiquarian studies much too far, combining them with the old hubris of thinking himself as meant for a higher destiny, above the petty concerns about justice or doing right--just like Uncle Andrew in The Magician's Nephew. You'd think these Faust types would learn from history, but no...
It's thought that James got Mr. Abney's techniques from Danish folklore, which is a detail that makes me happy. MRJ knew Scandiavia pretty well, it seems, and we will see more stories with Nordic details.
What did you think of Stephen and the other two children? I love them. Those two lost children are better than The Turn of the Screw in my biased opinion!
|From the BBC adaptation of "Lost Hearts" in 1973.|