OH, WHISTLE, AND I’LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD”: M.R. James

“…said a person not in the story.”

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Is this person — as mentioned by an unknown narrator, this narrator’s interventions here and there being worth a frisson or two in their own right! — the Disney named later in the narration of Professor Parkins’ exploits in Burnstow? In this version of the story that I have just read, there is no mention at all of a ‘Professor Disney’ that other readers have reported elsewhere of having seen named in it…
The Zeno’s Paradox gait of some figures later on the beach might be best depicted by a stylish Disney cartoon? “…an appearance of running about his movements, but that the distance between him and Parkins did not seem materially to lessen.” — “The moment came when the pursuer was hovering about from left to right only a few yards beyond the groyne where the runner lay in hiding.” — “‘Will he get over this next one?’ thought Parkins; ‘it seems a little higher than the others.’ Yes; half climbing, half throwing himself, he did get over,…” — note the various other crucial ‘half’ ways in the text such as the story’s horror itself: blind with “muffled arms in a groping and random fashion. Turning half away from him…” — and all this is a similar half-Zenoism to that I found so prevalent in the works of Aickman recently, and in the works Aickman chose for the Fontana ghost anthologies…

As you can see I am looking at this famous story afresh, brainstorming in fact — you will already know the details of its plot and how very frightening it is. What I have thought anew about it today makes it even more frightening, I say!

The landscape is reminiscent of the English East Coast where I have lived for the last 28 years, e.g. its groynes, Martello Towers, cold whistling winds, and my own beachcombing finds, equivalent to Parkins’ famous find in this story. But why is he going for a golfing holiday in the winter when hardly any golf is played?

Getting bored already with my review? You need Dr Blimber’s ‘forcing’ methods to read on!
“Your undivided attention, was what Dr Blimber actually said,” … but this is apparently mis-quoted (?) from Dombey & Son.
Dr Blimber, in Dickens text, ‘had likewise a pair of little eyes that were always half shut up, and a mouth that was always half expanded into a grin,…’ but a double chin!

“…the Vicar, an estimable man with inclinations towards a picturesque ritual, which he gallantly kept down as far as he could out of deference to East Anglian tradition.”
The local Vicar’s suspected Romishness, and Parkins’ conversations with the “lurid demeanour” of his eventual saviour, the Colonel, are connected with Parkins’ disbelief in the supernatural and his eventual come-uppance on this score, and the reference to the ‘foul fiend’ in Pilgrim’s Progress, and the Biblical Sadducees…. ”and his voice boomed out over the flats, as certain also of our own minor poets have said, ‘like some great bourdon in a minster tower’.” — that ‘bourdon’ quotation? Where is it from? Don’t know.
From Internet, about Beverley, a Minster town I have visited:
Both west towers contain bells. In the south-west tower contains a swinging bourdon bell called Great John. It chimes the hour and it dates from 1901. It weighs over 7 tons and it is over 7 feet in diameter. Despite its name, it is not dedicated to Saint John of Beverley. It reads, ‘I am called the great bell of Saint John the Evangelist 1901’.”
St John (not as in HPL’s Hound!) was an apostle of John the Baptist who called the Sadducees a ‘brood of vipers’… so, not just rats in Parkins’ room then?

Whistling for the wind as a paranormal phenomenon? A ‘confirmation bias’ or severe pareidolia / apophenia like mine? Or indeed a deadly synchronicity or cause-and-effect in this story’s gestalt?
Rogers arriving at the end making a Holy Trinity or thirds against the shadows of a whole with Parkins and the Colonel?

FLA FUR BIS FLE – this, even beyond my confirmation-bias, surely must deliberately contain the real word ‘SIFFLEUR” which now has its own Wikipedia about its meaning as ‘whistler’? Has this been observed before in this MRJ story? (The rest of those letters only being the inferred ‘flab’ of the Colonel — or four letters just short of a ‘baffle’!)

BIS is Latin for twice, not half! Undivided Blimber? —
“And here’s a sixpence – no, I see it’s a shilling – and you be off home, and don’t think any more about it.”

A truly great frightening story.

***

The ’That Glimpse of Truth’ context of above review: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/1351-2/

All my M.R James reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/my-ongoing-reviews-of-m-r-james-stories/

PS: please brainstorm more in comment stream below…

12 thoughts on “OH, WHISTLE, AND I’LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD”: M.R. James

  1. Still brainstorming like the mad thing or maddened man…

    Bis-bedded room at the Globe but “half-way through the window backwards […] rigging up, with the help of a railway-rug, some safety-pins, and a stick and umbrella,…” as pareidolia towards a scarecrow “that its one power was that of frightening.”

    • Is the identification of SIFFLEUR (professional whistler) from FLA FUR BIS FLE a new one, and was it arguably deliberate by MRJ?
      Wikipedia: Many performers on the music hall and Vaudeville circuits were professional whistlers (also known as siffleurs)

  2. Pingback: Siffleur | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

  3. 9FD8591C-F0E4-4F10-AA6A-02FB4E6FE50D

    The boy who was given a shilling when told to expect sixpence

    OH, WHISTLE, AND I’LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD”

    Is the identification of SIFFLEUR (professional whistler) from FLA FUR BIS FLE a new one, and was it arguably deliberate by M.R. James
    Wikipedia: Many performers on the music hall and Vaudeville circuits were professional whistlers (also known as siffleurs.

    Please see context of this question HERE

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  5. Pingback: THREE, OR FOUR, FOR DINNER by L.P. Hartley | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

  6. Pingback: A:B:O by Walter de la Mare | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

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