Monday, October 1, 2012

Lost Hearts

"Lost Hearts" was written somewhere around the same time as "Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book," and was read out to friends on the same night.  MRJ was apparently not satisfied with the story, but personally I think it's pretty great--really creepy.  I suppose it could have been a little longer.

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.


Risa said...

I was a little diss appointed with this story. I was able to guess the turn of the story and its end almost at the very beginning. The element of suspense was thus outed for me.

It's nice to know, though, that James drew from Danish folklore. A commenter on my blog, only yesterday mentioned how James draws heavily from folklore and twists them to suit his purpose.

Cat said...

I liked this story even though, as Risa said, it was predictable but I thought it had moments with quite a chilling ghostly atmosphere - the bathroom scene & the children in the mist.

Seems the bathroom scene was inspired by another of his travelling experiences - the mummies in the vaults of St Michan's church in Ireland.

MJR's stories certainly provide plenty of extra subjects to explore.

Amy said...

I almost wish I hadn't read MRJ yet so I could have the pleasure of this readalong. I love these stories! The point about terror being increased when it comes from the depths of antiquity is very well taken.

missy said...

I think the knowing or suspecting of what was going to happen made it more dreadful...yikes! I wanted to tell Stephen to get away fast. The mummies in the vaults of the church in Ireland is very creepy! I agree with the comment "terror is most effective when emerging from the depths of history." That really works on me :-)