Looking for Tolly III

Hemingford Grey

Wild Spaces Wild Magic was a title that emerged one Friday afternoon when Mat and I were thinking about Thursbitch and Alderley Edge. The Wild Spaces where the Wild Hunt meets.  How then to think about place and fantasy when we look at the work of Lucy Boston, where magic is decidedly domestic ?

It was fortuitous that Nikki Gamble put me on to the work of Gaston Bachelard (The Poetics of Space: page refs below are to the Penguin edition) before Ed Finch and co went out to Green Knowe, the house known in real life as the Manor, Hemingford Grey. I don’t know if Lucy Boston had read Bachelard’s ideas of Daydreaming of security (127) or Daydreams of refuge (129), but there are magnificent resonances between his vision of a house and Boston’s- although it was something of a surprise to read of Alchemical Melusines (129), when Melusine is the name of the arch-villain in my favourite Lucy Boston, An Enemy at Green Knowe.

The Manor is full of stuff – the stuff of families, the stuff of Lucy Boston’s stories, so mixed together it is hard to tell quite which is which.  As a fortified manor it encloses as it welcomes, but also feels like Bachelard’s shell-cave which is also a “fortress city…”(150), and I am reminded of the Psalmist’s view of Jerusalem as “strongly compact” or “one united whole,” “in se compacta tota,” “cujus participatio ejus in idipsum.” Everything all together. As Bachelard suggests

No doubt, one would have to sink into profound daydreaming to be moved by the vast museum of insignificant things. Or is impossible to dream of an old house that is not the refuge for old things…(161)

The profound daydream that is the creation of a writer such as Boston. A refuge for old things. Ah, now there I move from Hemingford Grey to Widford Manor, and to another book I’m enjoying in which C17th history and magic meet, K M Briggs Hobberdy Dick. But that (along with Bachelard on Corners as refuge and solitude) will have to wait…